Online Safety for Kids & Teens on the Internet (and Facebook): Do You Really Know What Your Kids Are Doing Online???
As a parent of pre-teens and teens, it is often hard to find that balance between being overprotective (aka “smothering”) and too permissive. We know that most kids between the ages of 10 – 18 are spending A LOT of time online… whether we know it and/or allow it. The facts and figures just don’t lie. Even if we don’t allow it in our own homes, chances are at least one (if not “most”) of their friends’ parents do… Therefore, we can’t really keep our kids totally removed from this new ‘world’ (with a whole lot of new dangers)–no matter how hard we try.
On the other hand, do we want to be ‘that parent’–the one that the ‘other parents’ complain about? You know… the parent whose house those ‘other kids‘ (usually belonging to the parents described in the above paragraph) run to in order to get online and update their facebook status? On the account their parents don’t even know exists?
Well, I am going to admit it here and now… I am that ‘other parent’. But… before you are tempted to write me off as some liberal lunatic ruining my kids and really, the entire future of the world as we know it, please allow me a moment to explain…
First, I don’t ever knowingly allow a child whose parents have forbidden facebook to access the site from my house. I ask before a kid comes over. Really. And I honor that parent’s wishes.
After all, just because I allow my kids to be corrupted by the potential evils of Social Media doesn’t mean I will override your decision to protect your kids from them.
With my own kids, however, social media – facebook, specifically – is not taboo.
Obviously, Facebook and the entire spectrum of social media is what provides about 75% of the income my family enjoys. Therefore, I know the platform to a greater extent than the majority of the population. I know the ins-and-outs of the system and I also know all the privacy guards that can be put into place. I also have a few of my own tricks up my sleeve to keep my kids in check. And they were aware of these the moment I allowed them to create their accounts.
For example, I created my kids’ user names and passwords and they are never allowed to be changed while they live under my roof. Surprisingly, as this rule was set from the very beginning, it has not ever been questioned or argued. It is 100% accepted and my kids actually expect that I will log in and check their accounts sometimes as often as every day – even at times when they are “chatting” (instant messaging; a parent’s nightmare most of the time) with others online. (If you aren’t aware, the same “user” can be logged in to Facebook on different computers at the same time. Thus, if your child is “chatting”, you can log in and observe the conversation in real time.)
I also send updates and notifications of everything my kids do while in Facebook (including chats) to their email address. An email address mind you, that I also have added to my own personal Outlook. Do I read them all? No. Do I frequently scan them? Yes. In fact, once a week or more, I will spend an hour or so actually searching for specific words in these posts. Most of the time, however, I don’t even mention to the kids what I read unless it needs immediate attention. While I am raising them, I do believe this is my business. But I also don’t have to rub their true lack of privacy in their face unless it is something that really sets off warning bells.
Now, many of you are probably thinking… that sounds like way too much work. Some of you are also probably thinking I am doing way too much – sticking my nose way too much – into my kids’ business. Others of you are likely thinking I am not doing it enough. Trust me, I have heard both sides.
But here’s the thing…. Facebook – the way I monitor it – has given me much more insight and knowledge about what is going on in my kids’ lives – and in their heads – than my parents ever had of mine. I know their friends to an extent my parents couldn’t have imagined. And while I won’t say that I use these things as total determinants of who my kids can spend time with (sometimes kids act one way online when I KNOW them to be totally different ‘in real life’) – I know with who and when to be on my guard.
If you are one of those parents who doesn’t want their kids on Facebook, am I telling you you’re wrong? Absolutely not. If you are a parent who lets your kids spend time on the social networks and you don’t monitor it like I do, am I saying you’re irresponsible? Absolutely not. My job requires me to be on Facebook – an reading email non-stop – much of the day anyway. It’s not really an inconvenience to me to perform these few extra steps to monitor their account and ensure if they are doing or saying things I don’t agree with – or even if they are being a victim or oblivious instigator of cyber-bullying – I know it right away.
But I also just added a tool that is going to take care of all these issues – alleviate every single concern I might have lingering – regarding my kids’ use of social media like Facebook. It is a tool I wish I thought of because I don’t think I will ever live without it until my kids are graduated and off to college. It is a tool that I honestly believe every parent should have on their home computer. And it is less than $20 a month.
This tool is the leader in web-based scanning and analysis of children’s social networking activities. Our technology goes deep beneath the social network surface and sees what parents can’t; helping you identify, understand and protect your children from potentially dangerous, harassing or embarrassing social media exchanges. It is also is easy-to-use and takes just a few minutes to activate. Simply set up your customer account online , then login to your account to register your child’s social networking accounts and let the tool do the rest. This powerful technology lets you stay in touch with your child’s activities, analyze the people they’re in contact with, and know when you need to get more deeply involved.
Here are some of the key benefits:
- Scans and analyzes your child’s social network 24/7.
- Provides instant alerts and prioritizes risks that most parents wouldn’t have the time or knowledge to discover.
- Features an easy-to-read monitoring report, updated in real time.
- Is invisible to your child and their friends, allowing you to trust and verify your child’s activity without embarrassment.
- Empowers and enables you to teach your children responsible behavior and awareness of their social interactions online.
Does this tool take the place of active parenting when your kids are using Social Media? No. Will it help you with that active parenting by making monitoring easier and faster? Yes. Absolutely. Does it give me additional piece of mind? You bet. The name of this product is Social Shield and I highly endorse it.
The price of Social Shield? $19.99. The price of really knowing what my kids are doing online – and who they are doing it with…. Priceless.
To Learn More About Social Shield, visit www.fhtmus.com/kimbrooksv
***I want to make it clear that I am a rep for Social Shield but I would NOT be if I didn’t believe in – and use – the product or service myself. You will need my rep ID to access additional information and to register for Social Shield. That number is 4207074
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