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Archive for Sunday, February 19, 2012

Parents urged to keep eye on kids’ Facebook accounts

Kel Kelly, back left, and her children Julia McGovern, 18, front left, Shaun McGovern, 16, right, and Patrick McGovern, 14, gather around their computers at their vacation home in Wellfleet, Mass., Wednesday, July 30, 2008. Some parents are concerned about the way Facebook has changed the way children interact with each other.

Kel Kelly, back left, and her children Julia McGovern, 18, front left, Shaun McGovern, 16, right, and Patrick McGovern, 14, gather around their computers at their vacation home in Wellfleet, Mass., Wednesday, July 30, 2008. Some parents are concerned about the way Facebook has changed the way children interact with each other.

February 19, 2012

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Tips for parents

Here are tips Southwest Middle School Resource Officer Jay Bialek has for parents of teenagers who want to join Facebook.

  1. Join Facebook if you aren’t already on.
  2. Friend your child.
  3. Go through your child’s friends list to make sure they know everyone on the list.
  4. Make sure you have your child’s username and password in case of an emergency.
  5. Check your child’s privacy and account settings. Bialek recommends setting them so only their Facebook friends can see their status updates and photos.
  6. Prohibit location-based social networking sites, such as Gowalla and Foursquare. Theses sites have fewer privacy controls than Facebook and could allow a predator to know where your child is.
  7. Don’t allow your child to post personal information, such as address and phone number.
  8. Teach appropriate Internet citizenship.
  9. Abide by Facebook’s requirement that users need to be at least age 13.
  10. Check out resources at facebook.com/help/safety, netsmartz411.org and safekids.com.

On some days when Southwest Middle School resource officer Jay Bialek arrives to work, he is greeted by four or five students ready to report online bullying that had occurred the previous night or weekend.

Facebook is blocked from the school’s computers, and a good chunk of its students aren’t technically old enough to be on it, yet the activity on its walls and message boards permeates the school day.

“The negative criticism, bullying, alliances formed quickly between different sets of kids, that has the potential to carry over to school,” Bialek said.

Each year Bialek educates students and parents on the pitfalls of social media for preteens. Bialek isn’t advocating for or against Facebook or the many other forms of social networking out there. In fact, he maintains a Facebook page as the school’s resource officer.

He does believe that parents should establish clear guidelines for teens before they join Facebook and that parents need to sign on to keep an eye on their children’s activity.

“Education begins at home,” he said.

As part of its terms, Facebook doesn’t allow anyone under age 13 to join. But that hasn’t prevented millions of preteens from doing so.

A survey from Consumer Reports found that of the 20 million minors who used Facebook in the past year, 7.5 million were younger than 13. The survey also found that many of those sites were unsupervised, and 1 million of them were subjected to some form of cyberbullying.

In another national survey conducted by researchers at New York University, 55 percent of parents of 12-year-olds reported their children have Facebook accounts. Of those parents, 82 percent knew when their underage child signed up, and 76 percent assisted their child in creating an account.

Bialek would like parents to enforce Facebook’s 13-and-older rule.

“A lot of our problems, a lot of issues could be avoided when it comes to social media if parents could help us with at least the 13-year-old rule,” Bialek said.

Both Bialek and Southwest Middle School Assistant Principal Matt Fearing believe children under 13 aren’t mature enough to handle the emotional implications that come with the social media site.

“The bullying, rumor mill aspect of this has been unreal,” Fearing told a classroom of parents last week. “Why? Because they don’t have the maturity level to do this.”

Child predators

But it’s more than just bullying that parents should monitor on Facebook. When Bialek gives his presentation to parents, he starts off with a chilling reminder.

“Years ago it used to be that child predators were hanging out in city parks. But kids don’t hang out in city parks anymore. They hang out online, and that is where the predators are,” Bialek said.

Just as parents warn children about talking to strangers on the street, Bialek said they should offer similar words of caution against talking to strangers online. To help determine how their children communicate online, Bialek said, parents should review who their friends are on Facebook. If they have a friend they don’t know offline, then Bialek said they should be removed.

“Fictitious Facebook accounts are easy to create,” Bialek said. “With some creative cutting and pasting, someone can set up an account to look like a 13- or 14 -year-old teenager. Without even asking questions, kids are friending people they don’t know.”

Facebook already has a default setting that won’t make information or posting public for users between the age of 13 and 18. But Bialek recommends that parents take the extra step and limit those viewing their children’s posts to just their selected friends.

Bialek also is adamant about keeping children away from the location-based social networking sites such as Gowalla or Foursquare, which allows users to check in to businesses, entertainment venues, restaurants and other popular areas.

“I tell the kids over and over again this is a risky behavior if a predator is monitoring your stuff,” he said.

While an online predator is what grabs a parent’s attention, the far more common problem is the online bullying that occurs among preteens with Facebook accounts.

“I see it constantly and consistently,” Bialek said. “About three-quarters of it is from kids who aren’t even supposed to be there.”

In a medium where conversations take place instantly, are broadcast to hundreds of people and are part of the permanent record, preteen quarrels can escalate far faster on Facebook.

“I do spend a good deal of time unraveling the social situations that has been created on Facebook,” Bialek said.

Much of what Bialek does is educating students that online actions can have some serious offline consequences.

Stop, think and then click, Bialek tells his students.

Comments

Richard Heckler 2 years, 10 months ago

Requiring real names with verification would also be helpful.....

grammaddy 2 years, 10 months ago

As with everything else they do, the kids need supervision on facebook.My 12-year-old grandson has a page, and has 17 family members on his friend's list. He can't post anything without one of us seeing it.And he knows he can lose it at any time. Take some parental responsibility and watch your kids.

kochmoney 2 years, 10 months ago

He's violating Facebook TOS by being there at all, and unless he has no access to the computer without supervision, he can indeed post things without any of the 17 family members seeing it. It's just a matter of time before he figures the privacy settings out.

Kelly Anderson 2 years, 10 months ago

He is NOT 13 years old and should not have an account anyway. My children were NOT and are not allowed to have an account unless they meet the age requirements and they are required to use MY email address for signing in that way all posts go to my email and I can see them on a daily basis!!

Hoots 2 years, 10 months ago

My sister works in an area high school. She hates all the problems associated with the age of social media and texting. Some of these same problems did exist prior to these existing but the problems have been greatly magnified with the ease kids have being cruel to one another. She's sick of the media blaming the schools for what these kids do to one another over Facebook and through texting while out of school and under their parents control.

Matthew Herbert 2 years, 10 months ago

Remember back when you had to have a university email account to join? That was awesome

Ragingbear 2 years, 10 months ago

Here's a radical idea. Stop using the TV and the Internet as a fracking babysitter!

Rockchalk_Mom 2 years, 10 months ago

Now you could have her arrested for invading your privacy. How things have changed.

SeaFox 2 years, 10 months ago

List of Tips is a lark!

1) Join Facebook if you aren’t already on.

This story was not sponsored by Facebook.

3) Go through your child’s friends list to make sure they know everyone on the list.

Good luck when many of their "friends" are probably out of state, maybe out of country, too. You can always tell who's really on the other end of the PC from the profile.

4) Make sure you have your child’s username and password in case of an emergency.

Cause you know they wont change that and not tell you.

6) Prohibit location-based social networking sites, such as Gowalla and Foursquare. Theses sites have fewer privacy controls than Facebook and could allow a predator to know where your child is.

Cause there isn't any way they could start an account at Foursquare (or a second account at Facebook for that matter) without you knowing. Also, Facebook is probably the worst at privacy controls to begin with.

8) Teach appropriate Internet citizenship.

Most adults don't know what this means, if any online news comment section is an indicator.

Lawrence Morgan 2 years, 10 months ago

For your information, please note the following:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/02/02/MNEM1N1M3O.DTL

Facebook mines and maintains information on all users. Like the Chronicle said, "you give up a lot for a small return." I think parents and young people should think about this quite a bit when they consider what to put on Facebook. It may come back to haunt them later.

Bunny_Hotcakes 2 years, 10 months ago

Make sure you and your kid understand and use the privacy settings. Here's an excellent quick reference:

Social Media Security's Facebook Privacy & Security Guide (link to the PDF is in the upper RH corner): http://socialmediasecurity.com/security-guides/facebook/

Also, Timeline is going to change some things. Ensure you've got a handle on how it works: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9223862/5_ways_to_secure_your_Facebook_profile_in_a_post_Timeline_world

impska 2 years, 10 months ago

Keep your computers in a public area of the home, such as the living room. Kids don't need their own private computer in their bedrooms. You should always have the ability to walk by and glance over their shoulder any time they use it. Kids also don't need phones that can send photos (It's a little hard to find one with no camera whatsoever, but you can tailor your cell plan to prevent sending/receiving photos) or access the internet.

kuguardgrl13 2 years, 10 months ago

Definitely a good idea to only have a family computer until they're at least in high school. I didn't have my own until college, and my brother didn't have his own until he built one himself in high school. Sure, we closed the browser window to what we were doing if we didn't want Mom to see, but she had a general idea of what we were up to. Impress upon them that they should only be friends with people they have met in person (and preferably only people you know too). You should know who your kid's friends are anyway, and it's even better to know their parents too. I still only generally friend people I know personally. Simple online common sense will save you a lot of worry. One other thing: never ever EVER let your kids mention their age. Have them hide their birth year on their profiles. Their friends should know how old they are, but no one else needs to. Facebook does have some automatic increased privacy settings for 13-17, but there are other things that could easily be overlooked. Talk to your kids about the importance of online safety.

Lawrence Morgan 2 years, 10 months ago

For your information, please note the following:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/02/02/MNEM1N1M3O.DTL

Facebook mines and maintains information on all users. Like the Chronicle said, "you give up a lot for a small return." I think parents and young people should think about this quite a bit when they consider what to put on Facebook. It may come back to haunt them later.

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