Online safety for parents

    Sam Mutimer

    Tonight, Channel 7 news is featuring the topical issue of school kids and teens using Facebook safely, in the wake of bullying at a school in Ivanhoe. Our very own social media director, Sam Mutimer, was interviewed for her views. Sam had written a blog post recently on the issue as well. We thought it would be a great idea to share our top five Facebook safety tips for parents, because let’s face it, it’s here to stay!
    1. Learn About Internet Safety Before You Talk About It
    If kids realise that you’re not quite sure what you’re talking about, they won’t take you seriously. Let them understand that what is appropriate and safe for adults to display online isn’t necessarily the same for children and teenagers. For example, while it may be appropriate for adults to use their first and last name online, it is not always safe to do so for children. CyberSmart, NetAlert and The Australian Communications and Media Authority are three great resources to get you started.
    2. Teach, Don’t Ban
    Rather than enforcing strict rules or threatening to ban social networking, the key to ensuring your child’s safety online is to teach them positive online behaviour. Children may feel scared to discuss issues of cyber-bullying with you if they’re scared they could get punished for being online in the first place. Create a caring environment that encourages your child to discuss their online activity with you, and empower them with the knowledge and skills for them to understand the safest way to interact with their friends online.
    3. Suggest Age-Appropriate Social Networks
    Legally, 13 is the minimum age to create an account on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, however children easily breach this rule by changing their year of birth when signing up. Depending on the age of your child, there are social networks available that have been tailored for their age group. Consider introducing them to Everloop, Togetherville or GiantHello.
    4. Check Their Privacy Settings
    If your children do have social media profiles, help them to set up their privacy settings. The default privacy settings for Facebook and other social networking sites often allow some aspects of a user’s profile to be visible to everybody on the internet. For children on Facebook, we suggest the following settings:

    5. Monitor With Care
    No matter what your price range or parenting style is, there are software options available to monitor your child’s online activity. The key is not to over-rely on these programs, as children and teenagers are media savvy and can often find ways around it. Use them along with the other tactics to create the safest environment for your child online.
    What are your thoughts? What tactics have you tried with your kids and what has or hasn’t worked so far?