Online Social Networks: Keeping Them Safe
The center of the social universe for adolescent girls has shifted. While it was once phone calls, the mall, and a place in town where kids hang out, it is now in cyberspace, which she accesses from her computer. How is a parent supposed to oversee that? By understanding the social network sites and keeping a close eye.
Unless you live in a cave, you've heard of these sites, currently the hot cyber spot for teens to socialize at. But how do they work? MySpace (
Although MySpace is a relatively new technology, its reach is massive, with over a million people signed on as members. Its numbers — and its competitors — keep growing.
Set up your own Facebook and/or MySpace page. Not so you can surf the Internet for new friends, but rather so you have a clear understanding of what the sites are and how they work. Warning: Your daughter will be mortified. But it is for her safety that you learn.
Both MySpace and Facebook offer positive features as well. Some high school student leaders use them to send out messages and reminders about school events. These sites also make keeping in touch with friends from a long distance away simpler and cheaper (no more shockingly high long distance phone bills). Girls getting ready to leave for the first year of college or to a boarding school can get to know classmates a bit before they even get there. MySpace is also a hot place for bands to post home pages to reach out to fans with news on concert dates and album releases and for political candidates to set up informational pages.
It all sounds safe and good, doesn't it? But here's the rub: because
Demand she not use her real name on MySpace. Help her choose a “handle” like “Dancer Girl” or something else related to her likes and hobbies.
Insist that you have her password. That way, you can check over the site anytime you want.
Read through her “friends” and “wall postings” and make sure you know who each person listed there is. If you don't know someone, ask your daughter for an explanation.
On MySpace, insist that her page be marked “private.”This security measure makes it so that only invited people can view her page, much like Facebook's security.
Check her profile photo regularly. It is one thing for her to post a photo of herself at the beach with a group of friends. It is quite another for her to post a self-portrait of herself in a bikini. Make sure all her photos are appropriate, and demand that she remove any you feel uncomfortable about.