How to protect your privacy on social networks
More and more people are signing up to social networks. This is particularly true among young people.
With more people joining it is less obvious whether social networks are being used as a global communication tool in a business and professional field, or whether its main use is to strengthen existing connections by other new means.
In social networks, people tend to act as they do in their non-virtual environment, which may include offensive behavior and provocative self-expression. Mimicking these properties online might cause severe damage.
Keep in mind the following rules and remember: they are relevant not only for your child's profile, but for your own as well.
- Be aware. Know which networks your child is active on, take a look at their profile once in a while, see who they are friends with, who is in contact with your child and what the general tone is.
- Know who to contact when necessary. If you have encountered inappropriate material, or other forms of harassment, know how to report it to the site manager.
- Maintain your privacy. In every network, under the preference tab, you can set your privacy settings, i.e. who can see your child's account, which details will be exposed and to whom, whether his/her pictures will be exposed, and other settings. Don’t be afraid to set strict settings, so that only friends can view the content your child uploads.
- Don’t disclose personal information. Update your profile with neutral information that cannot be tampered with. Don’t publish personal or private information, e.g. address, school location, ID number, telephone number and such.
- Define rules - what is allowed for your child to publish and what isn't. Pictures stay online forever, so avoid pictures that expose embarrassing situations, or pictures that may cause trouble in the future. Avoid posting pictures with personal details; the internet is full of people willing to use any piece of information, even if it may seem trivial or irrelevant to you.
- Was your child tagged? On the social network Facebook one can "tag" photographs, i.e. notify Facebook friends who is in the picture. Your child may be tagged by his friends from time to time. You should know that these tags can be canceled.
- Talk to your child. A good way of insuring your children's safety on social networks is talking to them as equals: asking them about friends, about the incidents they encountered while surfing on a social network, whether their friends are children or grown-ups, what kind of messages they have received. If you have noticed something unusual, sign into your child's profile with him and see what the problem is.
- Harassment is wrong. Harassment, bullying, verbal abuse, spreading lies and invasion of privacy occur on social networks just as in real life. Before you allow your child to open a profile on various social network you should explain these issues and encourage him to talk to you if he encounters them.