Note: This guide focuses on safety while online to help parents and young people. While some of the things I talk about may apply to other sites like myspace or xanga, I am going to specifically talk about facebook here. I will also be focusing just on the safety aspects not the overall functionality.
Account – facebook ask you to use your real name (first and last) as your account name. This will be displayed on your page and will also show up in searches as part of your basic info.
Email – facebook asks you for a email and confirms that email is your by asking you to click on a link sent to that email. This becomes your default email for facebook.
Network – This is the main group or network as facebook calls it that you will be put into. In a college or high school format this will display the name of the school along with the anticipated graduation date.
Info – You have the option of have a number of things displayed on your profile page (main page). Everything from political and religious views, to relationship status and even phone, email, and address info are there to put in if you want.
From the privacy page you can restrict access to what is availible in a search of facebook or you can even limit certain people from seeing certain things.
This is the main function of facebook. A friend can see your profile page, send and receive messages, write on your wall, view your photos, and generally have any access to your information that they want.
A friend is added to your list after they friend request is made. You have the ability for 1 month to view that persons profile page to help you determine if you want to add them to your list. You can also ignore the request or even have the person blocked from the privacy settings page.
NEVER add someone to your friends list that you have not met in person. A friend of a friend does not count. Someone who says they go to your school, church, Girl Scouts, etc, does not count as knowing them. If you have not physically seen them in real life then they may not exist.
NEVER give out your phone number to someone online that you have never met in person. Phone numbers can be traced to owners and owners can be traced to addresses.
NEVER call someone you only met online. With caller id systems now they will have your number and can trace you.
NEVER arrange to meet someone you only talked to online, IM'd, called on the phone, emailed.
Meeting someone online is not meeting them. As far as you know they may not be telling the truth.
NEVER post any personal information on your site.
NEVER post any personal information on your WALL.
facebook.com seems to be one of the most secure and user friendly of the social networking sites out there. One of it's major safety valves is also one of it's major vulnerabilities. In order to have access to another person's profile page with more personal information you need to be added as a friend. The power to approve friend requests lies solely with the account holder. facebook.com says it does not allow accounts for those under 13yrs of age. This means teens 13 and up have to make the decision of who to add to their list of friends.
What should I do as a parent to keep my kid safe and not have them sneak around?
First the danger in not letting them any access to a social networking site like facebook.com can mean that they will sneak around behind your back to do it. They will get on at a friends house, neighbors, relatives, library or even school.
If you decide to let your kids have a facebook.com account then do it with them. They might not like you having some access to their personal page, but it can be a good compromise.
Here is what you should do:
Create your own account. You can use the local area you live in as your network.
Add your child as a friend and make sure they accept your request.
Check your child's profile page over very well.
Check the friends your child has listed. If you do not know who they are then look into it.
Work with your child to create a profile that can be safe.
Check your child's profile page on a DAILY basis. You can get an alert on your home page when they add new friends or applications.
Keep the lines of communication open with your child. Make sure they are comfortable coming to you when they do not feel right about something.
Don't take any of their or your concerns lightly. There are far too many Internet predators out there to now. Err on the side of caution.
In order to keep you child from hiding things from you do not bug them about every little thing on their page. This can cause them to regress and hide their Internet activities from you.
Use your instincts and your judgment. If you feel you really cannot trust your child on the Internet then install some type of URL blocking or key logging software. This can alert you to any access your child has on the Internet. You can get detailed logs and even screen shots of what your child is doing.
The best policy usually is to work with your child to learn how to use the Internet safely. They need to know what dangers are out there and what to look for. You need to stay vigilant.