Make Social Networks Safe for Kids

article-image

Family Tech

Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.

According to Norton Online Safety expert Marian Merritt, more parents are concerned that their kids will give out too much personal information online than are concerned about their kids interacting with inappropriate people or being exposed to indecent information.

And certainly sharing over social networks is one way where kids are prone to overshare.

Although many experts are critical of the way they do it, Facebook has in fact taken many steps to allow users at least some semblance of control over the information that users share online.  In fact, Facebook even adds extra default privacy settings on accounts for kids under the age of 18.

Obviously, the first step in keeping any information private is not to share it in the first place.  But if you’re dealing with a social network, there’s a certain “quid pro quo” expectation that everyone who’s linked together will participate in some sort of exchange of information. 

There are steps for how to make Facebook and other social networks safer for children.

Control The Audience

You may not realize it, but you can control who can see your status updates, photos, check-ins and other information when you post. This is a key feature of Google Plus, but a lesser-known option on sites like Facebook.   There’s an option within every post to allow you to select, and within each network’s Privacy Settings menu, you can set your default settings for each of the different updates to be seen by friends, the public, or only me.   This is the most basic Privacy setting, and one to which most are already attuned to.

Manage Connections

You can control your settings for how you can be found, who is allowed to send you friend requests and who can send you messages.  Decide if you want everyone to do these actions, or just limit them to friends of friends.  In the case of receiving messages, many also limit that to just friends as well. 

Keep Control Away From Others – Facebook and Google Plus allow you to control whether or not others can post on your wall, tag you on photos, or mention you in their post and have it appear on your profile. 

Unless you’re a public figure, it’s usually fine to let others post on your wall, as the friends in your network are not likely to post something inappropriate (after all, you did carefully manage your connections, right?). But if you’re nervous about that happening, simply use privacy settings to not allow others to post on your wall, and the only time anyone might complain about is on your birthday.

To prevent your child from appearing in photos posted by others, make sure to restrict the ability for others to tag them in photos or check-ins.  There’s also an option to allow this, but only after you’ve approved it.

Many social network sites these days use facial recognition software, and you can control whether or not to allow the social network to suggest tagging you if they do upload a picture of you.

Limit Third Party Access to Information

According to the Facebook’s Privacy Settings page, “your name, profile picture, gender, networks, username and user id are always publicly available, including to Apps.”  The reason for this, the company says, is to make this information more social.

Beyond that, you can control how all of your kids’ information is shared with these third parties, which is extremely important because they are separate entities that have different privacy policies than Facebook.  It’s important you regulate what information can be shared, such as your bio, birthday, photos, status updates – pretty much anything you’ve updated on Facebook.  If you don’t want apps and websites to access these, make sure to use privacy settings to disable them.  You can even disable the use of games and apps entirely on social networks, which isn’t a bad idea.  The only drawback then is you can’t use any yourself, but surprisingly that is not that difficult for most.

Blocking Other Users

If someone is harassing you or you don’t want to be connected to them for some other reason, you can block a user, and you will no longer be visible to each other.  By doing this, you break all ties with them, and both users will no longer be able to see each other’s profile or appear in any search results.  This is a little more difficult to do, but can be done via privacy settings or through a link at the bottom of each profile.

Be Sociable, Share!
About author

Johner Riehl

Johner Riehl is a freelance writer focusing on families, technology and online safety. As founder and editorial director for FamilyFriendlyApps.com and FamilyFriendlyVideoGames.com, sites that provide reviews and recommendations geared towards families, he examines hundreds of family-friendly games and apps every year. He’s also host of Parent Savers, a podcast aimed at helping parents of newborns, infants and toddlers. TWITTER: @FamilyTechDad

View all posts by Johner Riehl

Comments

No comments yet.

Be first to leave your comment!

Nickname:

E-mail:

Homepage:

Your comment:

Add your comment