We are all well aware of the growing phenomenon of social networking and its attraction for children and young people. Social networking is here to stay and is very important to young people.

Most young people have Facebook accounts and use them regularly. Parents and teachers need to make sure that all young people learn to use the technology safely and responsibly and understand the underlying risks. To many of us the social networking phenomenon is strange and unfamiliar. Here we attempt to provide information, advice and strategies to parents that will help keep our young people safe and allow them to become responsible users of technology.

Internet Safety Basics

Help your kids understand that they should:

  • Never share their names, schools, ages, phone numbers, or addresses;
  • Never send pictures to strangers;
  • Keep passwords private (except to parents);
  • Never open email from strangers – it may contain viruses that can harm a computer; and
  • Immediately tell an adult if something mean or creepy happens.

Strategies for a responsible — and safer — online life

  • Visit only age-appropriate sites. Check out the site before your kids visit it. Know what features and what content exist and make sure they’re good for your kids.
  • Search safely. Use safe search settings for young kids or think about applying filtering software to limit inappropriate exposure.
  • Avoid strangers. Tell your kids that people aren’t always who they say they are in cyberspace. Explain that if someone they don’t know talks to them, they shouldn’t respond but should let you know.
  • Be a good cyber citizen! Remind kids that an Internet playground is still a playground and they need to play nicely. A good rule of thumb: If they wouldn’t do something in real life, they shouldn’t do it online. Find out how your children can report mean behavior or unkind content on their favorite sites and teach them how to do it.
  • Online cheating? It’s still cheating and it’s a no-no – pure and simple.
  • Keep the computer in a central place. So you can see what’s going on.
  • Establish expectations and limits about the amount of time your children spend online and what they do.
  • View your own habits carefully. You are their role models.
  • But, mostly, be involved and have fun with them! Keeping kids safe and teaching them how to use digital technology responsibly is all about staying involved. Start by showing interest in the sites they visit and the games they play and your job will be a lot easier when they start exploring these technologies more independently.