Kids can learn so much online!  It’s amazing the information available at the search of google.  Here are some guidelines though for navigating social networks.

1. Remember there is a world outside the computer.  Anyone seen the new Facebook commercial.  My favorite saying had to do with second life…”Get a First Life”  I remember when it was fun to come home dirty.  I think most of my childhood was spent outside.  Of course I grew up on a farm, but there is still an amazing amount of things you can do outside.

2. As a parent, talk about the choices of sites that are out there.  Stranger Danger isn’t just for ‘in person’ meet-ups.  Just because you have talked to someone through text, email, or facebook for several months – doesn’t mean you know who the person is.  (and definitely not that they are who or what they say they are)  I still remember when bots would cruise chat rooms using a form of artificial intelligence to guide the conversation to the product they were selling.

3. Stay Connected: Parents this also means you.  You may not spend all your time online, but at least figure out how to navigate your kids favorite sites. To top it off you can connect with all those friends you haven’t talked to in years.  My mother recently got in touch with a friend she hadn’t spoken to in almost 50 years.  (That’s basically my whole life, plus a little)  They now keep up with each other off and on through facebook and email. My mother isn’t on much, but it does let her feel like she has some idea what is going on.  You can also set up text messaging to let you know when your kids post….  I did learn the hard way though not to immediately mention what you find out otherwise you have to pull the parent card of I’m disconnecting that account if you don’t give me back access and the making sure no new accounts you don’t know about exist.  It’s better to know what’s going on and remain silent, than to speak and never know anything again…. unless the item you are commenting on is life threatening – or something like that.  Then all bets are off and nothing would stop me from immediately calling.

4. Ask questions… When you see a friend listed you don’t know.  Ask….

5. Keep an eye out for signs of cyberbullying (and for signs of bullying too).  The signs are subtle, so ask questions if you get a funny feeling about anything.

6. Let your kids know the consequences of posts.  Remember even if you set privacy settings, sites like Facebook can make things public at any time.  Don’t post anything you wouldn’t be willing to have painted on a billboard in town.  —  Also remind them that the posts can be archived FOREVER!   That’s a long time.   The Library of Congress is now storing all twitter posts.  Researchers can gain access.  Imagine years from now when that becomes available to your descendants…or to the person you applied for a job from.   Wouldn’t you hate to hear, well you had a good chance at that political office, but in XXXX year you posted that…….

Social Networking Sites:
Facebook: with the new changes how long will this last.
MySpace: Anyone still use this?
LinkedIn: Social Networking for Job Searching and Networking – an Online Resume
Twitter: updating your status in 140 words or less. – Tweets are public and searchable!