Dr. Nicole’s Opinion on Your Kid’s Facebook Profile
By Dr. Nicole Sundene
Since I am a doctor of a younger Facebooking generation, I understand social networking like Facebook, Myspace, Friendster, Twitter and so forth, better than the average bear.
I also use a few of them myself to promote Kitchen Table Medicine.
At a recent family gathering the topic of kids on Facebook came up.
As my sister stated, “I think the age group for Facebook is about 35 and under,” and she is somewhat right.
Since I am on Facebook to promote Kitchen Table Medicine (please become a fan of my group so I can “look cool” to my sponsors…I know – shameless!) I have come across some odd characters…even for me!
For an adult, it is as simple as “X”ing them out of my world or hitting the delete button.
With 800 “friends”, I never hesitate to delete someone who is negative or has possible ill intentions; however, your child should not have these “cyberfriends” – they should only be allowed to be friends with people they know in real life (RLF if you want to sound hip!)
- Do allow your fourteen year old child to have an account that you monitor until they are 18 years of age. Since “everyone else is doing it” now, being too stringent may cause consequences stemming from over-parenting; try to compromise. Obviously the safest choice is to keep them offline completely. Make sure they understand it is a joint account that you have the right to log in to every day and check out if you wish. The more transparency that exists between you and your child, the safer your child is from internet predators.
- Do ask a friend or family member that spends a lot of time on the site your child wants to be on to request them as a friend and check in on their page every day if it is something you don’t have time to do. For all my little cousins….Dr. Nicole is WATCHING YOU!!!
- Do keep your computer in an open family room area, so that whatever they are doing online is seen by everyone else in the household.
- Do have access to the log in and password to their account. Remember as I stated in “How to Keep Your Kids off Drugs” any illegal actions they commit on the internet, or otherwise, you may be held legally liable for until they are 18. Furthermore, your child may not even be aware they are committing a crime. Common sense rarely sets in before teendom!
- Do check out all their friends and make sure they are the friends you know.
- Do be stylish about it! Coco Chanel, the queen of simple accessories, has it right when it comes to accessorizing your child’s Facebook account. Do not allow for multiple pictures, and definitely do not allow for any personal information, such as the school they go to or the town they live in, on their profile. If they argue about this, settle for allowing their school as their only bit of “info” aside from their “about me” section.
- Do have adequate anti-virus protection on your computer. As I discuss below, these social media sites are filled with pedophiles, internet thieves, phishers and scammers. So watch out. I would use one computer for online banking/purchasing and keep the family computer out in the family room, kitchen, or most popular area for everyone to share. Educate your child on these phishing scams and tell them to ALWAYS check the browser to make sure they are logging in to www.facebook.com and not something that looks very similar to that.
- Do add your own helpful Facebook tip for other parents struggling with these same issues.
- Don’t let child under the age of 14 have an account. A seven year old child does NOT need to be social networking, and anytime you post pictures of your children on the internet they are that much more susceptible to pedophiles, freaks, kidnappers, who knows?!?!?!? Call me paranoid but we have to weigh the checks and balances.
- Don’t allow your child to be “friends” with someone they don’t know in real life. If they get such a request, it should be deleted or shown to you promptly. From just ONE message or comment exchange, an internet predator can use your IP address to locate your home and your child….isn’t that terrifying?
- Don’t allow for profile pictures that are too cute, cutesy, seductive, fun, or otherwise. If it were my child, I would not even allow for them to use their photo as their profile photo. The name should be enough for those that actually know them. A flower, favorite food, vacation spot or pic of the family pet is your safest bet.
- Don’t allow your child to bully you on this topic. You are the parent and having these accounts should be always viewed as a privilege. If they don’t like it read through these rules that I have composed. Let them hate me….heck I don’t care! I am on Facebook, and I am just looking out for them. I encounter creepy people all the time because I use Facebook to promote Kitchen Table, and never hesitate to delete anyone negative, stalkerish, or someone who gives me a bad vibe. Better to be safe than sorry right?
- Don’t ever forget that this is your house they live in, you are legally responsible for any problems they create, and worse ye,t emotionally responsible for a bad outcome with Facebook, Myspace, etc as happened with some cyberbullying on Myspace that resulted in a child committing suicide and the other child and parent were sued and held accountable.
- Don’t use passwords used for business related matters. Never ever ever forget that these profiles are perfect ways for ID theft to occur, so tell your child not to click on anything that looks “fishy” ie “phishing scam” where internet thieves are searching for people to log in to a “fake profile page” and once the scammer has your log in password they can then use it to gain credit card, banking, and even IRS information, or just completely hack your computer altogether.
So what other do/don’ts can you recommend to help out other parents challenged by this topic?
Read more: Pediatrics