[Updated] A colleague recently asked me for assistance in how parents can deal with children using Facebook (a scarier prospect for some than the idea of one’s children driving). Not having kids myself, it hadn’t occurred to me that children as young as eight are feeling pressure from their classmates to get on social networks. Seriously. Elementary-aged children on social media.
Here are a few ideas I had beyond requiring them to provide you with their password so you can log in periodically and make sure everything is on the up-and-up.
Monitor the Internet: Companies, governments and other organizations are constantly watching the Internet for mentions of their names – so why not parents? Using tools like these below – you can set up a stream of alerts to be delivered to you either by email, or as an RSS feed you can manage in a feed aggregator like Google Reader so you’ll know if your kids’ names are mentioned anywhere (and hopefully intervene to prevent problems):
- Google Alerts (alerts.google.com)
- Tweetalarm (tweetalarm.com)
- Board Tracker (boardtracker.com)
- YouTube Search (youtube.com)
Check the Privacy Settings: Facebook’s privacy settings are so obtuse, Wired magazine featured the term “Privacy Zuckering” in its “Jargon Watch” recently. It refers to the fact that the settings are deliberately hard to understand and operate because Facebook wants you to publish more than you intend to (more data about more people online = more traffic to Facebook = more revenue). Here’s a tool that lets you scan your Facebook privacy settings to see what is exposed:
- Reclaim Privacy (reclaimprivacy.org) – Keeping up with Facebook is so hard, they recently posted a message that the tool may not be compatible with the latest version.
Monitor Their Devices: This Facebook Setting will let you know if either of the kids logs in to Facebook from a computer or device you’re not familiar with (very handy if you rely on a computer at home to monitor your child’s Internet usage):
- Get Notified When Your Facebook Account Gets Hacked by ROHIT on MAY 11, 2010 | troublefixers.com
Understand the Settings: Here are some articles that help map out the confusing array of Facebook Privacy Settings:
- 10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know | Nick O’Neill on February 2nd, 2009 | Allfacebook.com
- [Graphic] Facebook Privacy: A Bewildering Tangle of Options | New York Times | Published: May 12, 2010
[Update] Understand the Culture: In last month’s issue of Wired Magazine, Clive Thompson wrote an excellent article (“Clive Thompson on Secret Messages in the Digital Age“) that I recommend parents read about how children are adapting to parental oversight of their social media presences. He describes how young people now communicate via multi-layered messages. A song lyric might seem innocuous to parents not familiar with the context – but the childs’ friends can get the message. This means parents need to be fluent in the cultural works their children consume.