Take A Smart Approach To Social Networking For Kids

You can’t escape social networking these days: Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and all their online cousins are everywhere. If you’ve got kids, chances are they’re eager to join all their friends in cyberspace.

Worrying about their safety is natural, but hoping social networks will go away isn’t very realistic.

You’re better off working with your children so they don’t hide their online activities from you. Take these steps to help them enjoy social networking safely:

• Start with kid-friendly sites. Facebook is far from the only place for people to go. A quick Internet search will help you locate lots of sites just for children. You’ll want to investigate them thoroughly, of course, but they can serve as a good introduction for your children to the world of online networking.

• Talk about privacy. Have a serious discussion with your kids about guarding their personal information online. They should understand that data like their full names, address, phone number, school, and birth date should be kept private for their own protection.

Emphasize that once something is posted online (a message or a photo), they can’t remove it entirely even if they delete the information from their profile.

• Choose a secure password. A password that your child can remember easily may be simple for a hacker to guess. Come up with a password that includes a mix of letters, numbers, and capitalization so it’s less vulnerable to attack.

• Encourage children to talk to you. Tell your children to let you know if someone online does anything to make them feel uncomfortable. If necessary, report the person to your site’s administrator. At the same time, talk about the need for your children to treat everyone with respect, online as well as in the real world.