The big buzz over the last few years has been Social Networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and Bebo. Whilst they can be a good way to keep in touch with friends and family, we have seen incidents rise in school that originated from comments made out of school hours on sites like Facebook. These comments can be seen by anyone in the circle of friends/family so any insult is magnified and lives longer than an old fashioned face to face insult.
Another issue is the number of people that children will ‘friend’ on these sites. Often they will boast about the number of ‘friends’ they have, and become competitive in having the most. This means they will sometimes friend people they don’t know very well, or in some cases will friend virtual strangers. This can leave them open to exploitation.
Finally, most of these sites invite the users to record lots of information about themselves, including home address, phone number, age etc. The privacy settings can be very complicated, and getting them wrong can mean that information can be seen by anyone at all – not just friends or family. Annoyingly, the companies that produce these sites have on occasion changed the settings so information is made public on all accounts unless you tell them otherwise.
- Make sure your son/daughter understands all the privacy settings and checks them frequently.
- Advise them not to ‘friend’ people that they don’t know.
- Most sites have age restrictions so check them – e.g. Facebook is for people over 13.
- Set up your own social networking account and ‘friend’ your son/daughter to keep an eye on them.