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You are here : home > Raising Children > Safety For Your Family > Parents' Guide to Social Networking

Parents' Guide to Social Networking

Most teens today use Orkut, Facebook, and other networking websites. Do you know enough about these sites?

Orkut, Friendster, Hi5, Facebook, and MySpace—do these names sound familiar to you? These are examples of social networking sites. Such sites allow people to make new friends, send messages, share photos, etc. In recent times, these sites have become very popular among teens all over the world.

Can Social Networking Sites be Harmful?

Social networking sites are a great way to catch up with old friends and meet new interesting people. In fact, they also promote literacy skills, knowledge sharing, and social skills. But can they be dangerous?

Here are a few recent cases related to social networking sites (names have been changed to protect people's identity):

  • Cases have been reported in the UK and US of 'sexual predators' posing as teenagers and trying to solicit young children and teenagers.

  • Janaki was happy that her eleven-year-old daughter was using the computer often. However, she was horrified to see her daughter posting inappropriate photos on her profile on a popular social networking site.

  • Fayaz, a teenager, was shocked when the police came to his house one day. An acquaintance from his college had filed a complaint. Apparently, someone had sent obscene messages to his acquaintance using his account and password.

  • Anita, the daughter of a school teacher, logged on to a social networking site. What she saw really hurt her. Few of her father's students had created a forum on the site. Some of the posts used obscene language to describe him and his family.
As you can see, social networking sites can be potentially damaging if not properly handled. As a parent, how do you protect your child from untoward incidents?

What Your Child Needs to Know

You may not always be able to prevent your child from using these sites. However, it is necessary to educate him on correct practices to follow while using these sites.

Privacy and Safety

Some social networking sites promote privacy while some allow anyone with internet access to view personal pictures and profile information of other people. It is important that you recognise safe, good quality sites where your child's personal information cannot be misused. Explain the possible risks of using a social networking site. Encourage your child to:

  • Never reveal addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, passwords, or any bit of personal information. People with malicious intent can misuse such information to trace your child.

  • Never add a stranger as a friend or share personal information with him. In the past, paedophiles have used social networking sites to target young unsuspecting children.

  • Avoid meeting someone who is just an online contact in person. If your child is planning to meet someone he met online, ensure that it happens under your supervision, at least for the first few times. Find out more about the person's background. Ask yourself, is he the same age as your child? What does he do?

  • Never upload his picture unless he is sure that only his friends can view his photo and personal information. Posting one's name, photos, and location makes it easy for someone to locate the person.

  • Never click any links that come from strangers in messages or emails. More often, such links turn out to be promotions of websites, especially pornography. In rare cases, the link may be a virus or malicious program. Such programs can be used to track every website you visit, what text you type, etc.

Just as in the real world, we need to maintain a basic set of manners in the online world. Here are some tips that you should share with your children:
  • Never use abusive, sexually explicit, or inappropriate language in an online forum, email, message, or profile. Denigrating other religions, people, and races should be avoided.

  • Never post inappropriate images that show nudity, personal information, blood, and violence in albums or as a profile picture.

  • Never use social networking sites to spread rumours, chain mails, and unconfirmed stories that can potentially damage someone's life or career.

What You Can Do

  • Encourage your child to speak openly about his experiences and problems.

  • Install software that can control access to objectionable sites, especially if your child is below 13. Net Nanny is an example.

  • Encourage your child to share his profile link with you. Remember, many children have multiple accounts on different social networking websites.

  • Monitor his profiles regularly. At the same time, respect his privacy. For example, do not send him messages that his friends can read. Your son may find it embarrassing.

  • Do not force your child to avoid such sites. Your child will soon find other ways to access these sites.
Social networking websites have their advantages and drawbacks. You may not always be able to protect your child from untoward incidents. What is important is to help him think critically for himself.

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Malini Dev.6 years ago
nice information. I will make sure that my kids read this article so as to be safe while on internet.
Rouble.6 years ago
Besides monitoring, it is important to teach them about net netiquettes. this will help them from a lot of troubles.
Pawan Gupta.6 years ago
Very relevant and useful article. Kids are now using computer and are online most of the time, so they need to be monitored.
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Discussion Forum - Recent Posts
What do you think about social networking sites? Do you or your child use any of them? Do you know any stories of abuse of such sites?
We need to invest in spywares and other softwares to keep parental controls in TV cables and while using internet when we have kids.
How muchever the world progresses we need to keep social network...
I dont quite agree with what you say. I work from home and am usually on the computer. But my teenage son and daughter are normal in theor computer/ interenet usage. We hardly have to monitor them, th...
I don' t see the harm. Parents can use a keyboard logger software to keep a track of keystrokes. This will let you know what your child is up to behind your back and on the comp. Be warned you might b...
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