Protecting Your Children on Facebook

fbDo we, as parents, really know what our kids are getting up to on Facebook? Or on Twitter, Instagram, Youtube or any of the multitudes of other social networking sites available to them? I’ve had quite an enlightening week as both a teacher and a parent. For a GCSE speaking and listening assessment I set my pupils a group task to discuss the pros and cons of social media sites. Boy, did I learn a lot!

So I’ve put together this article to share these insights I’ve gained with other parents and guardians out there who may, like me, be less that “with it”/”down with the kids” when it comes to social networking sites. Call it a fighting chance to safeguard your kids from the perils of social media.

Does Your Child Have a Facebook Account?

According to the kids, it seems many children open Facebook accounts and their parents’ don’t know about it. In fact, pupils in every group I listened to admitted they’d opened accounts without telling their parents.

The minimum age for a person to set up a Facebook account is 13, but it is often the norm for primary school aged children to have opened their own accounts. Don’t assume your child doesn’t know about Facebook – or doesn’t have access to it – just because they haven’t started high school.

Depending on whether you feel you’ll get an honest answer from your child should determine whether you ask them upfront about having an account or not. It seems that kids often aren’t trying to be sneaky about having an account; quite often they just don’t think parents know, worry or care about Facebook.

If you doubt you’ll receive the truth from your child, you can check the search history on the computer(s) your child uses. It’s easy to delete a computer history, but it’s unlikely your kids will remember to delete this every time they use the computer – especially if they use it often.

The Facebook Age Minimum….Doesn’t Exist

Facebook is supposed to have a minimum age of 13, but no proof of age is required to set up an account.

Therefore, if someone under 13 wants an account, they just need to alter their birth year when setting up the account – simples!

Interestingly, the majority of the pupils participating in the group discussion believed that Facebook is unsuitable for younger users, believing that pupils should be in high school at least before they set up an account.

Most of the pupils believed the newsfeeds that pop up on Facebook walls are inappropriate for younger users, including images and videos. The kids weren’t referring to pornography either, but, for example, images of extreme violence overseas that would pop up without any rhyme or reason.

The pupils also believed younger children have a lack of maturity over deciding what they should and shouldn’t share with the world. A bit of an obvious point, but interesting to hear the older pupils realising this. Some kids said they felt “mortified” over the posts they’d added when younger, and wished they’d been older when opening their accounts.

The So Called Privacy Settings

You can make your Facebook account “private”, and you can, in theory, choose how public you want your comments and pictures to be.

However, the changes you make to your privacy settings are anything but permanent.

When Facebook decides to “update” or “reset” (which can be anytime and as often as they want), all user’s privacy settings are reset too; back to the default setting of minimum privacy.

When you open your account there’s a tutorial on privacy settings, but it’s very easy to miss, so actively look out for it!

If you or your child has a Facebook account, make sure you check your privacy settings regularly – I’d say once a week as a minimum.

The Rising Problem of Cyber-Bullying

Bullying has changed with the times it seems, taking on the new form of cyber-bullying. This is the term donated to any form of bullying that takes place via emails, text messages or social networking sites.

Although a horrible, all-consuming form of bullying, with cyber-bullying there is the advantage that everything written down, even when deleted, on any type of social media is never absolutely lost. This means evidence can be complied against the cyber-bully, making it easier to prove the crime (because that’s what cyber-bullying is) and punish the perpetrator.

However, cyber-bullying can be more brutal and persistent than other types of bullying. Whereas physical or emotional bullying generally stops when a child leaves school or reaches home, cyber-bullying can infiltrate into a child’s “safe” areas via different forms of technology, so victims often feel they can’t escape, and their lives are entirely  violated.

It can be hard to spot if your child is being cyber-bullied. Typical signs of a child being a victim of bullying can include mood swings, depression, appetite change, withdrawal and reluctance to go to school, or even out at all. With cyber-bullying, keep an eye out too for jumpiness or negative responses when their phone beeps.

This post was written by Becky Stretton, author of the parenting blog, Green Duo. Visit her blog to read all about Becky, her husband Steve, their new baby daughter Phoebe-Rae and all their adventures in their green, eco-friendly household.

 

 

 

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