News, reviews & trends for fathers – a contemporary parent’s perspective.
Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Google+ (Plus) or another social media destination, what defines a social network is the fact that the content being shared is decided almost entirely by the users in your network. Although the infrastructure is provided by the service (and seems to be constantly changing and updating), shared media such as status updates, tweets, photos and article links are all uploaded by people you have somehow chosen to be connected to, and you likewise can provide that same information to others who are linked to you in the right way. Here’s why understanding social network basics is important: These sites feature huge amounts of people interacting and contributing in order to function and thrive. It’s why Facebook continues to be so popular, and why services like MySpace have evolved into niche offerings.
This simple fact that kids are involved in social networks (although those under 13 technically aren’t supposed to be) isn’t necessarily anything to be concerned with. (Unless you’ve got a tinfoil hat and are determined to keep them ‘off the grid’ for overly-protective privacy reasons). But you must consider what it is they’re doing on there, and teach safe computing habits, in order to prepare them for life in these virtual realms.
Note that the way that kids can connect is different on each social network. Some require that actions be taken by both parties hoping to be connected before they can interact, which is one reason why many parents seem to trust Facebook – both parties must agree to be connected in order to see each others’ updates (unless the privacy settings aren’t set correctly, but we’ll get to that point in a bit). However, others like Twitter or Google Plus require only a simple “follow” action be taken to gain consistent access to all information that a party is sharing, and the action isn’t reciprocal. That’s why Twitter is a useful way to keep tabs on your favorite celebs, sports stars or other well-known individuals, but why it’s not the best platform to communicate with those you know better. And, of course, interactions are almost all visible, so parents can check and see who their kids are turned to. It certainly feels great to see that your kid follows Barack Obama, but it’s a bit less gratifying to see they also follow Snooki and J-WOWW.
Many parents may not realize that Facebook’s terms of service actually require users to be at least 13 before getting an account. The main reason for this is because of the laws in place that restrict marketing and collecting data about kids under the age of 13, largely driven by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). But still, recent estimates are that 7.5 million kids under 13 are already on the service.
Here’s a quick look at the most popular social networks:
Facebook helps people stay connected with friends and family. Users must both agree to become “friends” in order to view each others’ updates, photos, links and more.
Twitter is a real-time information network in which users send short text messages called “Tweets” containing 140 characters or less. Anyone can access these updates through search, and users can choose who they want to follow.
Google Plus connects you with other users and requires you to place people in circles, which allows you to share information by specific groups. Updates or links are then filtered to the different circles, so unlike other networks, not everyone gets the same updates from everyone else. Anyone can add you to their Google Circle, and it’s up to you to manage who you follow.
Pinterest is a hybrid photo sharing site and social network that easily lets users share and sort photos and brief captions to others. It’s exploding in popularity, and as of early 2012, was already the third most popular social network.
Tumblr is a “short-form” blogging platform that allows for quick updates and photo sharing, and allows users to easily follow each other or discover other content that may be of interest.
Posterous is a site designed for mobile blogging, making it easy to share content from your mobile device. As of March 2012, the company was acquired by Twitter.
And here are a few more lesser known social networks geared towards kids:
Whatswhat.me is a “kids-only” social network designed for kids ages 7 to 13 that uses a webcam to verify a kid’s identity. It’s fully compliant with the COPPA rules about collecting data about minors.
Imbee is another social network designed for younger kids that features a profanity-free music streaming service called Imbee Radio.
YourSphere is designed for kids 18 and under and subjects its applicants to strict background checks, and features games, activities and a system for earning credits.
Although it’s quaint to think of working together with someone online on a document or video project as something that can be done while sitting side by side on the same computer, most online collaboration involves the sharing of data and information across separate computers. And whether it’s a problem with large files or trying to decipher multiple edits being done in a parallel, the need for streamlined online file sharing is important for families, individuals and businesses. Thankfully, a number of apps, cloud computing solutions and Web services can teach you how to share data online in seconds flat.
Remember the old trick you used to use where you would e-mail yourself important documents prior to a presentation or meeting to make sure you could at least access them somewhere electronically should we need to make edits? There’s no need anymore, thanks to the rise of wireless networks, mobile devices and cloud services, which make the practice seem woefully outdated. Here are 7 better ways to share data online that don’t involve e-mail attachments.
- GoogleDocs – All you need is a Google account, and you can collaborate on documents and spreadsheets in the cloud. Google Docs eliminates worries over “version control” with quick, automatic saves that ensure that anytime anyone access the document, they’re seeing the most current version. The main drawback with Google Docs is that the functionality of their document and spreadsheet programs is rather limited, although the service does a good job of providing basic functionality and similarity to Microsoft’s popular Office products.
- Microsoft Office Web Apps – Since many folks are most well-versed in Microsoft’s Excel, Word and PowerPoint programs, it’s great that the company has found a way to allow these to be shared online collaboratively. Using only a Windows Live ID (and a valid license for Office products), you can store, edit and share your documents online the way they were created.
- Acrobat – Adobe’s file sharing solutions are less focused on group collaboration and more on interaction. Although the firm does allow for manipulation of their proprietary .PDF docs, it also provides a robust suite of web forms, online signing apps and even large-file sharing services that make it simple to share data online. Although each service does offer a free, limited trial, there are paid versions which allow for deeper and unlimited form creation and sharing.
- Dropnox – Dropbox allows users to upload large files and e-mail a link to others where they can download them, or collaborate and share using cloud folders whose contents synchronze across users’ desktops. It offers a decent amount of space for free (2GB), with bonuses for referring new sign-ups. Depending on your usage, you can update to 50GB or 100GB plans for around $100 per year or $200 year respectively, or choose a more serious, customizable option if your needs are greater than that. Dropbox makes file sharing extremely simple, and doesn’t require passwords for your recipients to download.
- YouSendIt – A service that lets you upload large files then send them to coworkers and family members as simple web links. YouSendIt’s paid programs are more impressive than the free service, although if your file is less than 50MB big, then YouSendIt Lite is a nice version. But for files larger than that, you’ll need to spend either $100 or $150 per year to receive greater storage, control over expiration dates, and even tracking results in the YouSendIt premium ProPlus package.
- Box.com – Box.com offers 5GB of free file storage, and offers a number of other user-friendly features, such as the ability to upload entire folders with of data and files at the same time. It also offers apps that are maximized for mobile devices, and provide online document collaboration as well. This is a great solution for businesses large and small that need a common drive for their materials that can be accessed by many different people from many different locations. Plans start at $15 per user per month, but the company also provides customizable options and quotes for businesses and users with greater needs.
- Google Drive – Google is attempting to make “cloud storage” simple, easy and understandable for casual users with Google Drive. Its simple drag and drop interface and connection to users’ Google e-mail accounts just may help them succeed. It’s a great free option, with up to 5GB for free to store photos, resumes, school projects and more.