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This is the second part of a two-part article on Social Networks and Kids originally posted on Technology Safety Through the Eyes of Faith a resource guide brought to you by a collaboration between the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Social Network Privacy Settings
Anything you do or post on a social network reveals something about you. Therefore, your privacy is one of the main concerns about social networks. The vast majority of social networks have privacy settings that give you some control over the information visible to others. Some sites offer more features than others. However, when it comes to protecting your privacy think about the following:
- Follow the “stranger” rule. Post and share only the things you would feel comfortable sharing with a complete stranger. Assume that anything you post online will be seen, sooner or later, by an unintended person. Security breaches, system glitches, changes in a site’s policies, or other unforeseen events may compromise the privacy of anything you have posted.
- Restrict your profile. Show a streamlined version of your profile to non-family members and friends. Everyone doesn’t need to see everything about you.
- Think about who you allow to be your “friend”. Just because someone sends you an invitation to be their friend or join their network doesn’t mean that you need to accept that invitation.
- Read the social network site’s privacy guide. While this may involve some extra effort, these guides normally tells you what privacy features are available and how to set certain key profile settings.
- Use Privacy Settings. Be sure to configure the site’s privacy settings to help protect your identity. This is the first step to take once you join a site to make sure you don’t expose any personal information accidentally. Be sure to double-check your settings. Facebook, for example, lets you see your profile as others would see it so that you can confirm your settings are working the way you want.
- Disable options you don’t need or want. Social networking sites offer many features. If you are not using a feature, turn it off. The more features you have enabled, the less secure your profile can become.
When should I allow my child to be on a Social Network?
Technically speaking, most major social networking sites (at the time of this writing) will not allow kids under the age of 13 to have accounts. Yet, that doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate for all 13-year-old children to join social networks. It depends.
Some parents feel that age 13 is fine while others vehemently object to accounts no matter what a person’s age. What works or doesn’t work in your family is ultimately your parenting decision. Whatever decision you make, it’s something that you will need to weigh given your particular situation and circumstances. Oftentimes, kids will be the ones to press the issue; and if you yourself use social networking or if their friends do, then naturally they will want to join too.
If you thinking that it might be OK for your child to be on a social network, how might you proceed? We recommend that children over 13 years of age should be allowed to join social networks only if they are able to follow all the safety and privacy rules outlined above and you yourself are able to be actively involved in guiding their use of social media. If that is not possible, then think very seriously about allowing them to have an account.
We also recommend that you take the time to learn more about safety on social networks. For example, Facebook offers a Family Safety Center (www.facebook.com/safety) with information and resources for parents and children over 13. Another helpful resource is the Family Online Safety Institute’s Platform for Good (www.aplatformforgood.org). The Platform for Good aims to connect parents, educators and teens, providing them with tips and resources so that kids make responsible, safe choices in the online world and beyond.
All children under age 13 should use only age-appropriate social networks, which tend to offer tighter controls and increased privacy options to help protect kids and their privacy. Even if a site says it’s made just for kids, no child under 13 should join a social network site that does not adhere to COPPA standards.
Some Social Networks Designed Just for Kids
If you feel it’s appropriate for your child to be on a social network, but you want extra protection for younger kids, then look towards sites made just for kids under 13. However, before you allow your child to sign up, be sure to check out the site first. Make sure that you are comfortable with the site, what it offers, and that it fits into your Christ-centered parenting goals. CommonSense Media has assembled a list of social networking sites for kids that are a good place to start. You can find that list at: www.commonsensemedia.org/website-lists/social-networking-kids
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