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10 things you need to know about social media.

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Where do I start with social networking sites? The question that most parents ask themselves with a very quizzical look. Social media has become so pervasive with new sites continually emerging with new challenges that most parents don’t know where to start.

To prevent the proverbial throwing up of the hands, here are ten things every parent should know about social media

1. What happens in Vegas stays on Facebook. The permanency of the Internet is too often lost on a majority of users who simply share too much too often. In reality, the first point of call for most employers is now Facebook.

2. Set the rules. By dictating the rules before your child starts an account you will be laying the groundwork for a safe and harmonious environment when your child can make the most of a resource that can be engaging, informative and enjoyable.

3. There is an age limit. Facebook dictates that users must be 13 or older to start an account. Twitter, YouTube and other social networking sites have not set an age limit. However, flaunting this rule is easy enough as any user can simply enter a false date of birth and Facebook have no way of enforcing their own age restrictions.

4. Most children don’t use their Facebook privacy settings properly. Unfortunately, Facebook tend to change the layout and settings of Facebook accounts every 6 to 9 months. In turn, this inadvertently tends to reset and reorganise the privacy settings of each account.  Most young people either don’t know how to adjust all their privacy settings or fail to check just what personal information they are sharing with the online world.

5. To control the game you need to be in the game. Parents must, at the very least, have a conversation with their children about what social networking sites they are members, what personal details they have entered online and who they are friends with on each particular site.

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6. Stranger danger is now online. But, regrettably, no one teaches young people about online stranger danger. Should you accept a friend request from someone you have only met fleetingly? Do you need to ask permission before posting a photo of a friend? What sort of tone and language should you use when communicating with a friend?

7. Blocking websites, especially social networks wont help. The sheer pervasive nature of social media and the dawn of smart phones and tablets have enabled sites like Facebook to be accessed on the go, between class and in the privacy of the bedroom. Education is far better than prevention.

8. FormSpring. The least known but most popular site for cyber bulling. Linked with their Facebook accounts users, mainly between 13 and 17, ask each other anonymous questions. The more anonymous the platform the more virulent and offensive is the conversation.

9. Security software can be part of the solution. Whilst blocking sites may not necessarily work, many security software packages can set time limits on how often a particular site can be accessed in one day. Moreover, most security software should pick up and filter out offensive content.

10. It’s not all doom and gloom. One only has to look around the world at the transformative effect social media is having a tool for good and as a vehicle for change. Embrace the medium and make it an engaging place for learning and reaching out to family and friends.

How do you talk to your kids about social media?

Thomas Tudehope is a social media consultant and former adviser to Malcolm Turnbull. You can find him on Twitter here.

Tags: kids , technology-and-gadgets
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