Welcome back guest blogger, Von Ralls, father to a tween girl, IT guru and owner of
“Can I please, please, please have a Facebook?” If I had a nickel for every time I had heard that question, I would be living on my own private island somewhere right now. It would be somewhere nice and warm while it is cold here in Memphis, but I digress. At some point, as parents, we are all going to have to deal with Social Networking and our kids. I am going to pass along some knowledge to you that will hopefully help you along your journey into the Social Networking world with your children.
Setting Them Up with an Account
In case you are out of the loop, Facebook is a website that allows people to connect with their friends, share updates (“Status Updates”) on what is going on in their life, share pictures, play games, organize events and so on. Before you make any decisions about whether or not your child should have an account, I suggest you go to facebook.com and set one up for yourself. I know, I know, that idea may detest some of you, but in all seriousness, you should not let your kids jump into something on the internet that you do not know anything about. If you already have an account on Facebook, then you are ahead of the game. If not, just bite the bullet. You do not have to put any personal information in there if you do not wish to, and you can set all of your privacy settings to the maximum level (something we will get into later). Further, once you have gotten yourself familiarized with Facebook and what it is, you can delete your account and never go back if you do not want to.
Talk to Your Child and Explain Rules
Before you do anything, sit down with your child and explain to them what you are about to do. Make sure that they understand that this is serious business. This is a very big privilege, and should not be taken lightly. The things that they put on Facebook will be seen by all of their “Friends,” and possibly even strangers. Make sure they understand that you have the password for the account, and will be logging in frequently to check up on them, and make sure they are safe and sound. Come up with some other rules of your own if you want to. For instance, tell them that they are not allowed to be friends with anyone that is older than them, even if it is a family member. Tell them that Facebook is a tool to communicate with their friends and classmates, tell them they are not allowed to talk to strangers just like in real life. Some parents suggest that a good rule is to not allow them to post any pictures of themselves at all. Whatever rules you come up with, write them down, print them out, and hang them on the wall near the computer. Make sure that your rules are clear and if they are not followed, the account will be suspended.
Setting up the Account
The first thing you are going to need to do should you decide to set your child up on Facebook is get them an email address. If they do not already have one, you can set one up with them. The safest thing to do in my opinion is to set up a “family” account. Yahoo has family accounts you can set up, or you could set up an email account at gmail.com for your family; something like “firstname.lastname@example.org.” Regardless of what email address you choose, make sure you always know the password so that you can check it frequently in order to monitor your child’s activity.
Once you have established your rules and set up an email account, it is time to move on to www.facebook.com. Since you have already set up an account for yourself, and taken Facebook for a test drive you should be familiar with how to do all of this. The most important thing that you do not want to overlook is the privacy settings. You should set everything to “Friends Only.” Go through the custom privacy settings, and make sure everything is set to friends only. Make sure that you and your child do all of this together. Help them set up the profile, help them find one of their friends that you know and help them “add” that friend. It may be a good idea for you and your child to do all of their “Facebooking” together initially until you are comfortable with them browsing alone. You can keep the password to the account to yourself, and require that they come ask you before they log in.
This is a very broad topic, and we have barely scratched the surface. In the next article, we will get into more detail regarding the privacy settings. Make sure you go over to http://www.facebook.com/policy.php and read through the Facebook policy. This will help you understand more about what you and your child are getting into. I hope that this article helps any of you who are not really familiar with Facebook. As always, if you have any questions or suggestions just drop me an email at email@example.com.