My daughter recently discovered the wonderful world of the internet through the social networking site Facebook.
I know, I know children aren’t supposed to have Facebook accounts. We all know, however, that what’s SUPPOSED to happen doesn’t necessarily happen. All her friends had Facebook accounts. Rather than make Facebook like the forbidden fruit that she will be forced to “partake” of in secret, I opted to allow her to open an account wherein I knew the password and I am linked to her account as her Friend. That way I could monitor her account and see her online activities.
Prior to opening her account, I set a few ground rules with her. I sat her down and gave her specific examples as to why I am setting those rules so that she will understand my concerns. I talked to her to let her understand that although Facebook is a great tool to keep in touch with people, there are dangers involved in social networking as well if one isn’t careful.
I kept the rules simple and told her the minute I find out she has violated my rule, I am disconnecting her account because she has proven she can’t be trusted with a Facebook account. She agreed.
Rule #1: DO NOT add strangers to your Friend List.
I told her that it is important NEVER to add strangers and when in doubt, stay on the safe side and just ignore the requests. I told her that she has no idea who the stranger is online, or even if the data the person is sharing in their account is real or not. She has no idea if the stranger is a good person or a bad person who wishes her harm.
Rule #2: NEVER announce where you are or what you are going to do online.
I didn’t want her to announce where she was or what she is going to do online because even though she doesn’t add strangers, we don’t know who her friends have added and whether they are vigilant with their accounts. So it’s safer to not share too much information online so that she can’t be followed in case there are bad people online who wish her or us harm.
Rule #3: NEVER FIGHT with people online.
I told her social networking sites are used to strengthen relationships, not ruin them. If she’s mad, it’s best she keeps it to herself until she can talk to the person she’s mad at one on one. There’s nothing to gain with announcing your anger to the world and humiliate the person you’re mad at. Doing that will completely destroy the chances of reconciliation. It will just make her friend defensive and want to retaliate and the cycle of anger will grow bigger and bigger online because it’s easier to be mean online than face to face.
Rule #4: DON’T say bad things or make bad comments about your friends or family online.
Again, it’s easier to be mean online. No point in making a problem that wasn’t there in the first place, right?
So far so good. Her friends are composed of family, her classmates (old and new) and her teachers. So far all she does is to like photos, make cute comments on the photos of her online Friends, and chat about homework or life with her friends. She hasn’t broken any of my rules yet so her account is still active.
It’s so hard to be a parent now because we don’t just have to worry about our child in the real world, we also have to worry about them in the online world, which in this day and age is just as real. With cellphones, Ipods, Ipads and laptops, the internet is highly accessible to everyone, even children. As a result, most kids are plugged in. My kids….. definitely plugged in.
All I can really do as a parent is warn them and hope they take heed (and be vigilant in monitoring on the side). AND have the guts to crack down when I need to.
Oooh.. please give me the guts to crack down if necessary.