MySpace and Facebook were once the realm of college students and grown-ups, but high school and even middle school kids have discovered them. Facebook is now open to anyone 13 and older, and the minimum age on MySpace is 14. Sound far away? Your kids may already be seeing their friends’ older siblings using these sites, or they may even have fudged their birthdate to register themselves! If you’re not already using them, learn about them now.
Both sites offer broad freedom to post words, images, audio files and video. So step one is talking with your kids about the importance of not sharing personal information with strangers, not posting photos that could embarrass themselves or their friends, and steering clear of cyber-bullying. But the risk with these sites is that anyone can post a comment about your child or identify them in the caption of an embarrassing photo — kids can’t control their friends’ behavior. Older versions of a web page are stored on servers and can pop up when your child least expects it — like during the college admissions process.
Your child shouldn’t accept “friend requests” from people he or she doesn’t know well. Join these sites along with your kids and immediately set up a “friend” connection with them. They may not like it, but then you can see who their friends are and what they’re posting.