Safety of Children on Facebook: A Parents’ Guide

If you are parenting a kid hooked onto Facebook or other social networks, you should know about the dangers if these tools are not used with discretion.

Underage kids of many of my friends are highly active on Facebook. We have been discussing the issue of children’s safety on social networks. There have been a few instances when a friend contacted me saying that the Facebook account of his/her kid has been hacked. Surprisingly, in such cases, parents don’t seem to worry about what exactly their kids are doing on Facebook. They rather contact me to see if I can help them in recovering the kid’s account!

The state of affairs is worrisome and is marred by ignorance on parents’ part. Therefore, I decided to write about this issue.

The crux of this article is that if you are a parent of an underage kid who is glued to social networks –you should be watchful. There are a number of things that can go wrong if Facebook is not used properly. Facebook was designed by adults for the adults. When one opens an account with Facebook –they ask for the birth date in order to see if the person is underage. Facebook management wants to confirm age because they have good reasons to do so. Although, it is very easy to lie to the system about age and get an account. The software system is helpless. But as a parent you should not be as helpless.

Lets have a look at some of the problems your kids could possibly get into if Facebook is not used appropriately:

  • Masquerading is a simple and common phenomenon on Internet. Children are highly vulnerable to people with bad intentions who could masquerade as someone very friendly.
  • Children like to gain attention of their friends by posting their photos. These photos could be misused by pedophiles.
  • Children tend to be less discrete about posting personal information (e.g. residential address, phone number, school address). If such information falls in wrong hands –you kid could be stalked.
  • If kids become addicted to Facebook –they might spend too much time online (or thinking about their online world). This could harm their studies.
  • Kids could get exposed to inappropriate content. Don’t think that pornography is the only inappropriate content –it could get much worse than that.
  • “Cyberbullying” happens when a fellow kid (may be classmate or neighbor) begins to harass your kid online.
  • The status updates, videos, SMS, compromising photos posted, especially during angry or too delighted states, by your kids could be used by others to damage your kid’s present and future life.
  • If enough profile information is available to a person with bad intentions -he might create another profile using the same information. Then he can use this new profile to post defamatory content in the name your child. This is called identity theft.

Sounds horrifying? Well, indeed it does. But it’s not something you can’t control. Not all the children are equally vulnerable. But you should not become careless by assuming that your kid is not among the vulnerable ones.

Usually the kids who are vulnerable in their real life are more vulnerable online as well. However, this is also true that more aggressive kids (who seem to be less vulnerable in real life) are actually more likely to become victimized online.

Please note that the psychological make-up of children is very delicate and any sort of victimization can leave an indelible mark on their psyche. It is the responsibility of parents to shield their kids from the dangers of virtual world. Kids do need to learn about technology –so you should not keep them totally away from computers and Internet –but you need to keep your eyes and ears open.

In my next article –I will talk about a few tips that will help you in protecting your children from online harm. To read it click here

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