As parents we all have a strong desire to protect our children, especially when it comes to the Internet. Social networking continues to grow in popularity and children are attracted to it because it’s a great way to interact with their friends and to make new friends. Children that are naturally shy tend to open up a little more in a virtual world, making it easier for them to make friends online. Many of the social networking sites that have been designed for kids not only help them interact with others, they also are designed to educate them as well. Here are some of the top social networking sites to consider if your child would like to participate in the social networking world:
· Club Penguin
While each of the sites focuses on different things like gaming, friendship, and education, most of them have strict rules about the content on the site. The goal of the sites is to try and keep children safe from online predators and other online risks. However the web site moderators can only do so much to keep children safe. The rest is up to the parents and the children. Here are some social networking tips for children and parents:
Tip # 1 – Never provide personal information
If a site wants you to disclose personal information, look for another site. Some sites may require personal information to create an account, but it will be private from all other users. If the site requires you to include personal information, make sure it is not sold to a third-party and make sure no one else can access or see your personal information. Avoid using your full name and only provide an email address. Many users create an email account that is only used for social networking sites.
Monitor your child’s online activities.
Tip # 2 – Username and Avatar
Never disclose your real name, only provide a nickname for your user name. This is the best way to keep your identity safe from online predators. You also need to worry about the images you upload to the site. Don’t upload pictures to the site and use an avatar image instead. The sites mentioned above do not allow users to upload pictures and you have to use one of their avatar images.
Tip # 3 – Content
Watch out for the content on the web site. The problem with the content on some of the social networking sites is that it is not monitored. Users can upload any pictures they like and they can say anything they want, making it inappropriate for children. This is why MySpace and Facebook do not allow users under the age of thirteen. The web sites mentioned above all have site moderators that make sure the content is appropriate. Users caught in violation of the web site rules will be banned from the site.
Tip # 4 – Users
When your children are on social networking sites of any kind, always talk to them about ‘stranger danger.’ Online predators lie to children, and innocent children are easily lured into their traps. Make sure your children know that they can only add friends they have met in person; this is the best way to keep them safe from talking to online predators.
Tip # 5 – Parental Controls
Many of the social networking sites do not have parental control tools that will help to keep your children safe. Watch for the sites that allow parents to see the online behavior of their children. Kidswirl requires the email address of the parents to be entered when an account is created. The parents will then see everything their children do on the site including who they are adding to their friends list and who they are talking to. It’s a great way to keep your kids safe.