As children enter their preteen years (9- to 11-year-olds) most experience an increased desire to belong to a group, club, or a social network of some kind. Your child may be interested in communicating via chat, e-mail, or some other form of online communication with his or her peers. When and how much you allow your preteen to use the Internet as a means of communication is entirely up to you as parents.
Identifying the risks
Many teens do not appear to fully comprehend the public nature of material posted on social networking sites. Even material shared “privately” with one or selected others can easily be made public by the recipient. This lack of sensitivity to the potentially damaging nature of such disclosures is extremely evident on social networking sites, where some teens are posting personal contact information, intimate information, and material that is highly damaging to their reputations and current and future opportunities.
The biggest message that must be imparted to children and teens with respect to privacy and the Internet is this: it’s not private! Anything and everything that is put into electronic form and sent or posted online is public, or could easily be made public. Think before you post.
In the real world, when you share information with your friends, it is primarily just between the people present at the time. In general, the distance that offline information travels is limited, as are the ways in which it can be documented.
In the online world your private information and actions can be documented and made public, often by you. In a sense, everyone who participates in public social networks is suddenly a public figure. You should consider all the implications that status carries.
* Help your child set up his or her profile and account settings so that they are acceptable and as safe as possible.
* Let your child know that you will monitor his or her social networking site or blog, and make it clear to him or her what is acceptable and what will not be allowed.
* Help your child understand the public nature of the Internet. Teach your child to be careful of what he or she divulges through text and photos. Things that he or she wouldn’t feel safe saying to someone you have just met on the street should be considered inappropriate to share online.
* Keep an eye on who your child is connecting with online and how much information is being shared by your child, or by comments his or her friends make.
* Teach your child that the surveys and questionnaires abounding on social networking sites are consumer information techniques that companies use in order to find out what kind of products you’re likely to buy, which then helps them formulate advertising strategies.