One of the things I enjoy most about my work is having the opportunity to talk with parents and educators and dispel some of the myths or fears around their kids' use of social media. No matter the audience, my message is pretty consistent: Don't panic!
Time and time again, I urge parents and educators to arm themselves with knowledge and understand that blocking content and web pages isn't the answer.
Here are some other tips:
- Talk to your kids/students about what is appropriate and not appropriate
information to release on the Internet. Take an active role in their digital
- Protect your kids digital identity by creating news alerts for their name on Google, Yahoo! and MSN.
- Talk about the implications “lifecasting” can and will have on their future.
- Remind kids that the web is that "permanent record" we were all warned about. Even though you go back and change that blog entry or delete that embarrassing photo, the information is archived on the Internet Archive/Wayback Machine.
- Whether it's Club Penguin, MyYearbook or MySpace--make sure your kids learn how and why they should use privacy filters--and then double check to make sure they are using them.
- Visit the sites your kids use and read the TOS (Terms of Service) and/or Community Guidelines. Learn how to report abuse and share the information with your kids. And while you're at it, learn more about COPPA.
- Social networks are self-policing, if you find objectionable content, bullying or other abuse—report it! Think of it as a 21st Century Neighborhood Watch program.
There are lots of great resources out there to empower parents and educators on social media safety & cyberbullying. The ADL, Yahoo!, Media Awareness Network, myYearbook and MySpace (to name a few) all provide free web safety guides for parents and teachers on web safety, digital literacy & social media.
Printable Handout: Digital Parenting Resources
Update: In April 2010, Facebook has rolled out a couple new initiatives to help its community members better protect themselves against the security, privacy and other threats that have become all too common among users of social networking services.
The Facebook Safety initiative has two parts: Facebook Security and Facebook Safety. Learn more about it on Barking Robot.