7 Facebook Essentials for Kids
#1 Parents must have the password
The password is the key to unlock the door for full access into your child’s Facebook profile. It must be shared with the parents and only with the parents! This is essential for accountability and building trust in the relationship as it allows parents to spot check the News Feed and Inbox from time to time. If the password must be changed (and we recommend changing it every 60-90 days for security reasons), parents must know what it is immediately. To us, this is a non-negotiable for kids being on Facebook.
#2 Parents must have full access to Friends
Facebook has created a number of ways to help Facebookers protect themselves such as setting up Friend Lists, limiting what certain people can access and hiding certain parts of the profile from view. But when it comes to parents and their kids, not only must the parents and kids be Facebook friends, but the parents must be able to view as much as possible – all pictures, videos, posts, updates, tags – everything.This creates a check-and-balance and keeps the surprises to a minimum.
#3 Keep personal information private
Kids are an open book and much more naïve about the world than adults. There really are bad people in the world. Some bad people are using Facebook for bad purposes. Bad people are hacking Facebook accounts to gain access to people’s private information and that of their Facebook friends. To be as safe as possible, don’t post personal information on Facebook (physical address, full birth date, place of employment, etc). Also, avoid updates such as, “Parents are gone. I’m home alone and bored,” or “Our family is gone on vacation for three weeks!” These kinds of updates can invite bad people to do bad things to a family member or the family’s home.
#4 Watch what is said because others are watching
What your kid posts is seen by everyone they’re friends with: family, coaches, youth leaders, teachers, family friends, neighbors and more. If it gets commented on by a Facebook friend, all their friends may see it too. So watch what is said: no swearing, no threats, and no innuendo. Also, watch who is talked about: no complaining about parents, no putting down siblings, no publicizing family spats. A good rule of thumb when posting anything is to ask, “What would happen if what I’m posting was posted on the Google home page for everyone to see?”
#5 Friend real people that are really known
Facebook is about connecting and reconnecting with people who are part of one’s past or present reality. There is no contest or award for “who can get the most Facebook friends.” Avoid friending people just because others have friended them. Don’t friend strangers. Don’t raid the parents’ friends either. The key question to ask when friending or considering a friend request is, “do I really TRUST this person to see the updates, the pictures and the information I post and not do something bad with them?”
#6 Kids are fully responsible for their Facebook page
While kids can’t be responsible for the dumb things their Facebook friends post on their Wall and News Feed, your kids must be responsible for anything posted from their own profile. If they left a public place and kept their Facebook logged in and somebody posted something acting like your kid (regardless if it’s inappropriate or not), your kid is responsible for it. If they allow a friend to use their Facebook profile to send messages out to people, your kid is responsible for it. Once something is posted, it can never be permanently removed. Hopefully this helps them think twice (or a third or fourth time) about allowing someone else to borrow their identity for a little while.
#7 If in doubt, ask the parents
Participating in an online social network opens up all kinds of new situations and scenarios for people to deal with. Sometimes the right things to do isn’t so clear. In some cases, the “right” solution can feel awkward or put you in a difficult place. Adults don’t always know how to deal with Facebook-related issues, how can we expect our teenage kids to deal with them and do it correctly? Kids need a safe place to turn if a Facebook friend is crossing a line, if an uncomfortable situation arises, or if they don’t know how to respond to a distressing message. That safe place should be their parents.