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Parents facing up to Facebook

14 April
Posted by:
Michael Grose

Kids’ use of communication technology keeps many modern parents guessing. The age when kids start using Facebook and other social networking media is a burning issue for many parents of pre-teen and early teenage children.
Central issues

Lack of parental knowledge: Kids know more than their parents when it comes to the Internet and social media according to recent research. The Optus Family Communication survey reveals that over half (55 per cent) of Australian children outsmart their parents in technology knowledge before they are 13 years old. A further 30 per cent of parents admit they are behind their children by the time they are 15 years old.

Facebook, MSN and other forms of social networking media are here to stay, so parents need to learn about social media, even if they don’t want to embrace it. It can be confronting when their child knows more about technology than them, but smart parents these days let their kids teach them what they know about technology.

Lack of parental will:
Facebook doesn’t permit kids under the age of 13 to access the site for reasons of personal safety. It doesn’t require proof of age to access the site, so it’s a guideline only. Facebook’s recommendations however, may be useful reference points if parents are involved in negotiations with their child over using social networking sites.
More importantly, if young people are using Facebook and other networking sites, they need to fully understand the rules of safe use.

Ideas to help:

1. Help kids set up their pages

Go through the set-up phase with their kids, including establishing a personal profile. Check out the homepage of Facebook and other sites, and use their help sections to answer your questions. Help young people adjust the privacy settings so they suit their level of comfort. Review them often.

2. Address safety issues

Reinforce the importance of never sharing their passwords, not even with their best friend, a boyfriend or girlfriend. They should discuss other safety tips such as the types of information and pictures that should and shouldn’t be placed on their pages, as well as what to do if someone sends inappropriate information or initiates unsolicited communication.

3. Monitor their use

A parental role is to keep an eye on their child’s use of Facebook. It helps if the computer they use at home is in a common area of the house, although this is more difficult when kids use mobile phones to access Facebook. This type of monitoring is age-related and may well not be suitable for older teens.

4. Get your own page

Get you own Facebook page and learn how to use it. Many parents already use Facebook as a way of communicating with their children. This has the added bonus of enabling parents to keep one eye on what’s happening on their child’s Facebook page.

5. Discuss with their kids how and when to use Facebook

Facebook is a common communication medium, but it’s not the only one available. Encourage parents to discuss the pros and cons of Facebook and other communication media such as sending text messages, talking on mobiles and also connecting face-to-face. 

Help kids navigate safely and securely in an online world, just as they should in an offline world. Know what kids are doing; spend time teaching them common sense, safety lessons and limit their use of technology so that they stay connected to their family.

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