Social Networks and Kids Part 1
Being a parent isn’t easy. It can often feel overwhelming. Throw in the Internet, social networks, computers, mobile, and gaming devices and things can often seem impossible. But you aren’t alone. Technology Safety Through the Eyes of Faith, www.faithandsafety.org, is a resource guide brought to you by a collaboration between the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and an attempt to give you some simple, straightforward advice and tools on how to navigate this digital world with your family.
This article is from the Faith and Safety website.
Do you feel overwhelmed by the challenges of online privacy? You’re are not alone! There are many ways that information about you can be collected online; and many times you’re not even aware that it’s happening. In this section, we’ll be covering some of the issues and topics related to your privacy online.
Kids want to be part of social networks. It is important to discuss social networks with them before they join. Be sure all appropriate privacy controls are enabled. Kids can get into trouble or ruin their reputations when they share private feelings and thoughts or inappropriate photos or videos. Challenge your kids to show respect for themselves and others by minimizing the amount of information they share.
Social networks are online communities where people can create a profile; communicate with others; and share thoughts, photos, videos, web sites, and other content. The key element is all of these sites is “sharing.” The strength of every social network is that it helps its members share ideas, thoughts, images, and videos with other members.
The number of social networks keeps growing, but here are the ones you are most likely to hear about and will want to be familiar with:
• Facebook: The largest social networking site, with over 1 billion users. Facebook provides allows its members to share messages, photos, videos, events and much more
• Twitter: Allows users to send short messages (no more than 140 characters long) know as “tweets.”
• YouTube: A video-sharing site, where users can upload, share and comment on videos
• MySpace: One of the original social networking sites, MySpace is much less active that in the past.
There’s no question that social media can potentially be a good way for kids to communicate, collaborate, and share. However, if kids are not careful, social networks can also have some significant pitfalls too.
Like technology itself, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with social networks. However, the majority of problems happen when kids begin to share their private thoughts, feelings, photos, or videos online. Without thinking through the consequences of their actions, kids can damage reputations, privacy, and even their safety. Physical safety is especially a concern since many of the major social networking sites allow users to post their exact location. It doesn’t take much to provide inadvertent information to a robber or predator. Because some of these issues are not something that younger kids readily think about most mainstream social networking sites only allow kids over 13 years old to use their service.
While it may be a temptation, kids should never lie about their age just to join a social network. Let’s emphasize this again: kids should never lie about their ages to join a site. Your kids need to understand clearly that these safeguards are in place for their protection. For example, on Facebook privacy works differently for minors (kids 13-17) than it does for adults. If a kid lies about their age, those additional layers of protection are not available. Younger kids under age 13 should stick to age-appropriate social networking sites that feature strong privacy controls.
Social Network Topics to Discuss with Your Kids
As parents, there are several points that are important to discuss with your kids before they join or interact with any social network. Here are some of the major issues make sense to be actively discussing in your home:
1. Protect privacy and reputation: Talk with your kids about their reputation. They should understand that any information they post can become public. Posts on friends’ walls, TXTs, IMs, etc., everything can be copied or forwarded. Kids should clearly understand that If you don’t want it public, don’t post it or send it.
2. Respect for self and others: Even though the Internet might allow kids to experiment with anonymity by creating obscure screen names, teach kids that using anonymity to degrade or attack others is wrong. The Scriptures teach us that we are all accountable for our actions wherever we are. The Internet is no exception.
3. Site Features: Different services have different features. Some are cool to use, but those cool features could be used in ways you didn’t intend. Talk with your kids about what they like about a particular site or service, what people do on the site, and challenge them to think about the different ways those features could compromise their privacy. For example, just because you can take a picture and then have it automatically post where you were and the time you were there doesn’t mean that photo and the location services can’t be used to compromise your family’s safety or privacy.
4. Think safety: No one has a right to know your personal information—ever! Never post where you are or where you are going. Above all, never meet up with someone you met online. Some sites may sell or share your information with marketers.
5. Find a balance: For kids, their virtual world is important. Don’t trivialize that importance. Rather, help kids find proper balance between real and virtual worlds.
ABOUT THE GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNET MINISTRIES
The Department of Internet Ministries is responsible for identifying, leveraging, and developing technologies appropriate for Orthodox Christian digital ministry.
Internet Ministries is dedicated to wielding technology for the proclamation of the Good News of the Gospel and for the advancement of Orthodox Christian ministry. In this capacity, the Department is charged with the development and expansion of the Archdiocese’s presence on the Internet and the World Wide Web.
The Department of Internet Ministries was created through the generous support of Leadership 100 and its offices are located on the Campus of Hellenic College & Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology.
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