With more and more children and teens taking to social media and Internet, their safety in the virtual world has become a growing concern. Coinciding with the Safer Internet Day on February 9, social networking giant Facebook has come out with some tips to help young netizens take more control over their security and privacy in the cyber space. Some tips, shared by Facebook’s Head of Global Safety Antigone Davis, are also for parents to ensure their children are safer online.
“Facebook is a community, but a community only works well if it has certain rules and resources to ensure people feel safe. That’s why we are dedicated to providing the Facebook community with the tools needed to feel safe and supported. But a community also requires people to take care of it and act responsibly. This month, take some time to think about the ways you can be a better neighbour on Facebook,” says Davis.
This year’s Safer Internet Day theme being ‘Play Your Part for a Better Internet’, the suggestions are designed to help teens “make safer and smarter decisions not only on Facebook but everywhere on the Internet”. Facebook advises all net users in general, and those creating an online identity for the very first time in particular, to go through a crash course in things like sharing, account security and online etiquette.
Here is what Antigone Davis has to tell teens and their parents.
3 Tips For Teens
* Think before you post: It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and write something that may seem funny at the time. But one should remember what you say can really hurt someone, or come back to haunt you.
Consider these questions before posting: Is this how I want people to see me? Could somebody use this to hurt me or my reputation? Would I be upset if they shared it with others? What’s the worst thing that could happen if I shared this?
Any information you post — in a comment, as a note, or on a video chat — might be shared in ways that you did not intend. So, before you post, ask yourself: Would I be okay if this content was shared widely at school or with my future employer? And if you find yourself wishing you hadn’t said or done something, it’s never too late to apologise.
* Know your ‘friends’: On Facebook, every time you share something, you can choose exactly who can see it. You can choose your friends on Facebook and for this reason it’s important to accept friend requests only from people you know. If you ever receive hurtful or abusive messages or posts on your profile, you have options.
Depending on how serious the situation is, you can ignore it, ask the person to stop, unfriend or even block the person. You can also tell your parents, a teacher, a counsellor, or another adult you trust.
* Play your part: You can always report abusive content on Facebook — whether it’s on your profile page, or someone else’s. Everyone who uses Facebook has to agree to abide by its Community Standards, which define what kind of posts are welcome and which aren’t.
Hate speech, graphic violence and bullying are not allowed on Facebook and this type of content is removed when reported. You can also report inappropriate pages, groups, events and fake or impostor profiles. Reporting is confidential, so no one will know who made the report.
5 Tips For Parents
* Stick with what works: The parenting style for your kid’s online activities need not be different from what you do offline. If you find your child responds best to a negotiated agreement, create a contract that you can both sign.
Or, maybe your child just needs to know the basic rules. In that case, you can establish them early when you first buy a mobile device for him or her.
* Try to be a good role model: Your kids will “do as you do, not as you say”. This old adage is as true online as it is offline. If you set time restrictions on when your child can use social media or be online (no texting after 10 pm, for example), modelling that same behaviour on your part makes a big difference. Your texts to him or her must model civility and respect if you want your child to be civil online.
* Engage early and establish norms: Data suggests parents should engage online with their children as soon as they are on social media, by ‘friending’ them as soon as they join Facebook or following them on Instagram when they sign up.
Just as you lay the foundation for dialogue and conversation offline with your children early, you have to replicate that online too. Talk to them about technology as a whole even before they are on social media. It may help lay the groundwork for future conversations.
* Seize key moments: There are many natural times to have these conversations. When they get their first mobile phone, or your child turns 13 and is old enough to join Facebook, Instagram and other social media networks, is a good time to establish ground rules. Similarly, when your child gets a driver’s licence is a perfect occasion to discuss the importance of not texting and driving.
* Let your children teach you: As a parents, you may not be aware of all social media networks people are part of these days. Maybe you are interested in trying a streaming music service? If your children are already familiar with these services, they can be an excellent resource.
The conversation can also serve as an opportunity to talk about issues of safety, privacy and security. For example, maybe you can ask them questions about privacy settings as you set up your own Facebook account. And, as most parents know all too well, your child is likely to appreciate the opportunity to teach you.