Facebook is great! We love it! We use it! But is Facebook your child’s “friend?” We adults have found the answer to keeping in touch with old and new friends without too much effort. We can brag about our kids, our life, share precious moments with just about EVERYONE. That’s the thing parents need to understand. When you post something, even with privacy settings, EVERYONE can see it. Did you know that?
Years ago, to be ahead of the game (and ahead of our kids) – we started using social networking sites, Facebook being one of them, so that we could share our experience and expertise with parents and children. Facebook suggests members be at least 13 years of age to use their site, but we know (and if you didn’t) that children from as young as 8 are using it. At the time we did this we had no idea we would be discussing online safety issues with children as young as 8. We want to tell these youngsters to “get off it” – “you shouldn’t be on it” but we know they are not going to listen. Their friends are on, they will get on at other places, they believe it is their right, and it is part of their social life…..And their parents are letting them have a facebook page. Children are hanging out on Facebook the same way we (their parents) hung out at the park growing up.
So KidSafe’s philosophy is to teach children how to be online safely and educate parents to supervise and be a part of their children’s online life. Parents need to know their children’s Facebook friends, the same way you should know about their “real life” friends. If you as a parent are not on FB and your child is – Get on NOW. You can have your child teach you and help set you up – a bonding and empowering experience for you and your child. These are some important tips all parents need to know:
Tell your children what you post online stays online FOREVER – so before you write anything, comment, post a picture, send an IM, email, etc. ask yourself: “Would I want my parents, principal, police or a predator to see this?”(wired safety.org) or “Would I stand on the stage in front of the whole school and say what I am about to post?” If the answer is “NO” – Don’t do it!!
The goal: for children to stop and think about consequences before making decisions such as: posting pictures, making comments etc.. In our KidSafe lessons this is called using your Inner Safety Voice. We want children to start getting into the habit of using their Inner Safety Voice as a stop sign in their head to making safer and smarter choices.  But, we..the parents need to be modeling this behavior for our children.

So parents, every time you post on Facebook about your upcoming vacation plans…you have now told the world and possibly a potential home intruder that your home will be vacant. Every time you post a picture of your child wearing a school uniform, sports team, karate school etc…you have just told a potential predator where your child goes to school etc. Show your children that you are “Thinking” and using your Inner Safety Voice before you post.

One of the most important things you can do to keep your children SAFE online is to make sure that their computers are NOT in bedrooms, or behind closed doors. Computers should be in an open area of the house and parents need to tell their children from a young age, “Using the computer is a privilege not a right – you need to use it responsibly, these are the rules (we recommend you print our computer safety contract for your children to follow) and I am here to guide you and answer any of your questions.” Tell your children, “You can come to me about anything that you are confused or uncomfortable about and I won’t take away your computer.” This is important because this is the main reason children say they don’t tell their parents when they see something inappropriate online.

We could tell you hundreds of stories children and parents have shared with us about unsafe practices that happened when children are using the computer behind closed doors…its not safe..and quite frankly children need to know that they have boundaries while online. They may have friends that don’t have such boundaries and they will be grateful to you (though they might not say it) that you have given them an “out” from friends that want to do unsafe things online.
With all this said – KidSafe recommends children should not start using social networking until age 13-14. If you start putting these rules into place at a young age – (as soon as your child is on the computer) these rules become habits that can help children make safer and smarter choices as they grow-up. Now we told you we love Facebook – and we do….So – Please join our group on Facebook – KidSafe Foundation.