Set Facebook Boundaries with Teens:One Mom’s Safety Tips

by on December 24th, 2014
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Facebook and other social media networking sites have taken over cyberspace in a big way. Virtually all teenagers and most adults have a Facebook account. After all, it’s free and a great way to stay in touch with friends and family. So, when your teenager approaches you with wanting to set up a Facebook account, but you have safety concerns, stick to some simple rules to please both your teenager and yourself.

I am not an expert, but simply a mother who has four of her five children on Facebook. Although I am not an “official” expert on the matter, I feel I have established some rules and boundaries with my own kids that are helpful suggestions for any parents in the same situation.

My first recommendation is to abide by the minimum age guidelines set by Facebook. A child must be at least 13 years old to set up a Facebook account according to the rules. I feel this is an appropriate age, and did not allow my sons to set up an account until they were the legitimate age. I know many younger kids are setting up accounts, who are probably doing it against their parents wishes, who might be setting themselves up for some online dangers because they are too naive to realize just how dangerous cyberspace really can be. I feel younger kids are more likely to become victims of cyber bullying or child sexual predators, which is a very scary thought. I also feel that Facebook implemented this age restriction for a reason, and it should not be ignored.

Another concern when using social media is privacy. Sit down with your child and help them set up their account. Opt for the stricter privacy settings such as not allowing anyone but friends to read their wall and personal information. Set restrictions for the information they can give out online while they are still minors. I feel there is no need to list their current town or what school they attend, because not everyone needs to know that information. Remind them to not be too telling in their profiles and mention personal details or last names.

As far as photos go, have them keep their albums private. Random strangers do not need to be viewing your child’s photos. Request that they set all photo albums to “friends only”, not “friend of friends” or “public”. Also, remind them to be discreet with their photos. Obviously, you wouldn’t want them broadcasting something suggestive or rude, but a few other things come to mind as safety concerns. I recommend never allowing photos with information such as license plate numbers, addresses, and other personal details to be posted. A photo can tell a lot, and sometimes to the wrong person, so play it safe.

Next, the friends list. Emphasize to your child that they do not need to try to set a record for acquiring the most friends on Facebook. I find it hard to believe that some oif these kids actually know 4,000 people personally, let alone are truly ‘ friends’ with them. Ask that they only accept requests from people they truly know personally, and whom they trust. Family members and close friends and acquaintances should be the only people added. Remind them that some people may not have honorable intent when sending a friend request, and may only be trying to gain information or get “dirt” to use against them for gossip or bullying purposes, or sometimes, even worse motives.

So now that you’ve set these boundaries, how can you know for certain that your child will follow them? That’s actually easier than it sounds. Insist that they add YOU as a friend. Are they going to whine and moan about this at first? You betcha! But, tell them it’s this way or it’s a deal breaker, and no Facebook account until they agree.

All of my sons are my Facebook “friends”, and it’s actually worked out quite nicely. I don’t just go snooping through their profiles and photos, but will occasionally check on my son’s account who is still a minor . Most of the time I simply see their updates on my home page and may comment on something. I’ve actually had some pretty interesting and sometime hilarious thread going with my sons and their fellow Facebook friends. In fact, many of my sons’ actual childhood friends have sought me out to add me as a friend on FB. This makes me feel good and very positive about the Facebook experience.If your children are cool with the fact that mom or dad can see what’s listed on their wall, or in their posts, then I feel it improves the lines of communication. It also gives the parent and child a chance to build some trust. You are trusting them to follow the rules you’ve set, and you’re able to watch and see that this is actually the case.

One thing to remember is not to be a nag about every little thing someone may write on their wall, or that your child may make a comment on. Obviously, if it’s totally offensive and inappropriate, confront them in person about it, but please do not reprimand them on FB “in front of” everyone on their friends list. That can be humiliating for a child and really set them up to be “playground victim ” material. Can you even imagine all the ” your mommy said….” reactions your child would likely face the next day? Keep in mind that kids are kids, and they will, and do speak accordingly. You might cringe at a few words from time to time, but remember, your child needs to speak their mind or vent sometimes, and they most likely talk with their friends like this in social settings. (Remember, we were young once too!) For example, your son’s friend Johnny saying a colorful word on his wall isn’t worth an argument as far as I am concerned (unless of course he was being violent or threatening to him or someone else, but I am mainly referring to casual slang that most teens use).

Keep these tips in mind to help keep your child safe online. There are also many sites dedicated to the goal of keeping kids safe in cyberspace. I enjoy Facebook myself and understand the need for teens to want to have an account of their own. Just make sure they realize that you are still the parent and that certain responsibilities are involved with managing their account.

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