Safety on Facebook: Does it Exist?

19 05 2010

A cartoon of a child on a computer.Ever since MySpace and Facebook exploded into pop culture, parents, teachers, and other leaders have decried how easy it is for kids to get in over their heads enjoying the very things that make social networking fun: playing multiplayer games, sending party invitations, and browsing their nearby neighbors—all things that make it easy to meet new people.

Behind all the buzz and fun is the fact that kid-magnet social networks, like Facebook and MySpace, are also popular with those who seek to do kids harm.

In response, Facebook has unveiled a new Safety Center, its latest tool to fight abuse on the network.

The safety center is a portal to information, some of which is provided by Facebook and some of which is provided by other partners like Childnet International and Connect Safely. It seems to be an easier way to find answers to questions we’ve all had at one time or another.  For that reason alone it’s worth a mention, although there’s no “Golly!” factor at work.

The network was criticized in recent years for not doing enough to keep tabs on predators who had created accounts.

The Safety Center just answers some questions, it’s no substitute for the oversight only parents can provide—even if our kids think it’s a drag.

Here are some tips for helping your family stay safe online, courtesy of Julia Angwin at The Wall Street Journal:

Savvy parents should treat the Internet like an unsupervised playground. Set some rules and then stick around to make sure they’re enforced.

  • No chat rooms
  • Only instant message with people that kids know in real life
  • Immediately report any cyber-bullying (parents should then contact the parents of the perpetrator)
  • Never give out personal information online
  • Use web filtering software

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