WINDHOEK - Parents are often rather suspicious about their teenaged children being online, especially since they have heard of predators and have heard horror stories about abductions and other Internet evils. But is it really so bad as everyone makes it?
Maybe parents, who may not necessarily be terribly well-acquainted with the online world, and thus also harbour fears that their children are about to pull a fast one on them, should realistically look at the issue together and then decide on a way forward that will provide more peace of mind to the parents and, at the same time, does not leave the young folk chafing at the bit and felling too restricted. It is a proven fact that for years teenagers spent much of their free time talking to friends on the phone. Today’s teens aren’t so different. They just have more ways to communicate.
What’s my teen doing on Facebook?
Just like adults, teens use Facebook to connect with friends — through chat, personal messages and sharing photos, videos, links and other kinds of information. They use Facebook to announce achievements, wish each other a happy birthday and plan social events — like going to the cinema or to a friend’s house.
Who Can See My Teen’s Timeline?
Fascbook maintains added protections and security settings for teenagers (age 13-17) to ensure that their timelines and posts are not shown in public search results. Only Facebook friends, friends of friends, and networks (such as their school) can see what a teenager posts. Similarly, if a teenager shares their location using the Places tool, only their Facebook friends can see it. Encourage your children to use the View As tool (in the top right corner of their timeline page) to see what their timeline looks like to the public. They can also see how it appears to a specific person by typing a name into the field and pressing the enter key.
Start a conversation
Parents don’t need to be social media experts in order to ask questions and begin an ongoing dialogue with teens. Have conversations about safety and technology early and often, in the same way that you talk to your kids about being safe at school, in the car, on public transportation or playing sport.
One of the best ways to begin a conversation is to ask your teens why services like Facebook are important to them. You might also ask them to show you how to set up your own Facebook timeline, so you can see what it’s all about.
Discuss what’s appropriate information to share online - and what isn’t. Ask them about privacy settings and suggest that you go over them together, regularly. Set ground rules and enforce them.
Learn from your teen
Today’s teens have grown up with the internet, mobile phones and text messaging. Most don’t distinguish between being online or off. New technology has always been a part of their lives, so when we write it off as trivial or a waste of time, we criticise a big part of their social interaction. You probably know this already but unless you’re really on top of social media, your teenager probably knows more about it than you do. That’s OK.
Don’t be afraid to ask your child to show you the ropes!
It’s about respect
It’s also important to talk about the Golden Rule: treating others the way you want to be treated. This also applies to using new technologies.
Make sure your teenagers know where to go for support if someone ever harasses them.
Help them understand how to make responsible and safe choices about what they post-because anything they put online can be misinterpreted or taken out of context.
Once You’re on Facebook...
If you have a Facebook timeline, and have friended your child, try to respect the same boundaries you use offline. Let your relationship dictate how you interact.
For example, whether you join a conversation among your child’s friends or if you post on their wall.
Think of social media as a get-together at one of your child’s friends’ houses. You can give permission for your teen to attend, and even though you won’t be there to monitor their behaviour, you trust your teen to have good judgment around peers and other parents.
It’s all about balancing your teen’s growing independence and need for privacy with your safety concerns. Please see the Facebook Tools page for more information and resources for parenting on the web.
Learn the lingo
Friends? Friends of friends? Like? Poke? Wall? Learn what all these terms mean in the Facebook Help Centre.
Tips for parents
It can be tough to keep up with technology. Don’t be afraid to ask your kids to explain it to you. If you’re not already on Facebook, consider joining. That way you’ll understand what it’s all about! Create a Facebook group for your family so you will have a private space to share photos and keep in touch. Teach your teens the online safety basics so they can keep their Facebook timeline (and other online accounts) private and safe.
Talk about technology safety just like you talk about safety while driving and playing sports.
Start a conversation with your teen
Do you feel like you can tell me if you ever have a problem at school or online? Help me understand why Facebook is important to you. Can you help me set up a Facebook timeline?
Who are your friends on Facebook?
I want to be your friend on Facebook. Would that be OK with you? What would make it OK?