From private to public

Sign posts with Public and PrivateFacebook has been criticised a lot this week for what many perceived as a privacy breach. Users thought they began noticing ‘private messages’ from 2008 and 2009 appearing on their timelines. Facebook denies these claims and states that the messages are simply wall posts that have a different appearance because they were created with an older version of Facebook without the ability to ‘like’ or ‘comment’ (in Mann, McNeill & Atkin, 2012, para.7).

Despite Facebook’s denial, many users still believe they have found evidence of a breach.

Many people panicked when they realised something they possibly shouldn’t have said can now be seen by anyone who can access their Facebook timelines. This incident begs the question – what happens when private turns public?

How much information does your child put on their social media accounts? It is one thing to teach them not to divulge too much information on a private account, but have you thought about what else would be available if all the privacy settings were to suddenly disappear and leave everything in the public’s eye?

It is a good idea to teach children to think about the information they put onto social media as being completely public. This will ensure they think carefully before they type or upload a photo.

A permanent record

All friends have little arguments between themselves, but what if they moaned about it with someone and it was recorded and played back to the friend in question? How would they feel if that friend was able to hear it? How would they feel if a future employer was able to access their gossipy conversations? How would they feel if their future children knew everything they got up to as teenagers? … “What on earth were you doing in that photo, Dad?”

Social media is like a permanent recording. Everything on the Internet is persistent and while you may think your child’s account may have the strongest privacy settings available, technology is not 100% reliable. Things do go wrong.

Think before you type

A group of seventh grade students was asked to write a list of how they think they should behave online. I think you’ll find the list pretty impressive and I recommend showing it to your kids.

So let’s make sure our kids really know how to talk to each other on social media respectfully and imagine that one day everyone is going to read about it, because you never know, one day maybe they will.

References:

Mann, A, McNeill, S, & Atkin, M,. (2012). Users vow to desert Facebook amid latest scandal. ABC News. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-10-04/users-vow-to-desert-facebook-amid-latest-privacy-scandal/4295964

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Learning from tragedy

I remember driving out of the parking area at work to pick up my daughter. I had received a phone call from the school saying she was feeling sick and could I come and get her. My daughter needed her mummy. I rushed to get her immediately, like a mother bear eager to protect her cub. As I steered out of the drive way I noticed the clouds getting grey and tiny spots of water slowly tapping my windscreen. It was going to be a cold, stormy night.

A solemn voice came on the radio; it was the afternoon news reporter. She said that a teenage girl had been missing for two days and it was suspected she had gone to meet someone she had just met on Facebook. I clearly remember closing my eyes and silently praying that it was not true; that perhaps she had run away to a friend’s house.

I had no reason to have a vested interest in this girl. Other than the fact that I am a mother. And a human.

Although my two girls are still very young, I knew that one day I would have to face the reality that they too would be branching out into cyberspace and coming across people they don’t know in ‘real life’. This could happen to anyone.

The next day there was an update on the teenager. She had been murdered by the stranger she met on Facebook. The charming young man she was talking to in cyberspace turned out to be an experienced predator that lures young girls in with fake social media accounts.  I knew right then and there that safety on the Web was my calling. I had to learn everything there was to know about keeping my children safe in cyberland.

In real life, I teach my daughters to be aware of their surroundings, not to talk to strangers, and to always be kind to others and report any bullying they may come across. These rules apply on the Web too.

When the lines between the virtual and physical world are blurred we can have tragic circumstances like the one this poor teenager faced. Somewhere this teenager’s mother is longing for her child, longing to hold her in her arms again, longing for the ability to keep her child safe. I vow to learn from this woman’s tragedy and start guiding my own children’s digital footprints.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Young kids using Facebook

I enjoy Facebook as much as the next person, so why shouldn’t we let our kids use it? Aside from the obvious dangers of being cyberstalked by strangers, cyberbullying, and not understanding the true meaning of PRIVACY settings…they could also be targeted by advertising companies.
As if it is not annoying enough to be hassled by the kids when they see ads on TV, we now may have to contend with Facebook. 
OK, advertising in Facebook is not new, but Facebook allowing preteens to use Facebook is (or will be soon), and this is where the concern of advertising to very young kids comes in.
Facebook does claim that they are taking the issue seriously and listening to recommendations, but what if this changes in the future? How do we really know our kids won’t have ads targeted at them everytime they login? It is so easy for them to click on those ads and be taken anywhere on the Web.
It is every parent’s responsibility to teach kids about cybersafety, and marketing goes hand in hand with it. It may be simple enough to advise teenagers on the wrongs and rights of advertising, but how do you explain it to a ten year old, or nine, or eight, or seven….?
I believe that it is important to teach our kids about using social networks as they are very good resources if you know how to use them safely, but I, for one, will not be letting young kids use Facebook if there is advertising popping up next to status updates from their friends. The digital world is confusing enough at a young age….and mummy’s credit card just doesn’t stretch that far!
If Facebook starts allowing kids under 13 to use Facebook, will you let your kids sign up? What are your thoughts on Facebook advertising to kids?

Is your teen’s Facebook status putting them in danger?

 Millions of teenagers around the world are using Facebook on a daily basis, but do they really know the consequences of their status updates?
Recently, an Australian teenager posted photos on her Facebook page of large wads of cash that her grandmother was counting. As a result, two masked men invaded her mother’s home trying to find it. The money was not in the house but they got away with a small amount of cash. Fortunately, no one was injured.
This incident begs the question: do you know what your kids are really up to on Facebook?
As parents, we are responsible for bringing our kids up and teaching them right from wrong, but how many of us know what to teach them when it comes to the digital age? Everything on the Web is persistent and can follow us for the rest of our lives. It is up to parents to guide our children through their Internet footprints so they don’t live to regret the choices they make in their digital lives.
The case above shows unawareness of privacy and trust issues on the Internet. We must teach our children that they never really know who is watching in our real lives as well as virtual.
Have you had a dangerous experience caused by Facebook use?

Family HQ

A social network site started up a couple of months ago called Family HQ . It is a private networking site so people cannot be searched; you have to be invited to use it. I like the idea of this and have invited a few of my family members to use it. The trouble I have found is that many people who are very protective of their privacy and won’t sign up to a site like Facebook are still concerned about sites that say they are ‘private’. I have only had two people take up my invitations and therefore have a grand total of three people on my Family HQ site to correspond with. Still, this site has potential. If you can manage to get quite a few family members to join in, it is a great way for family to catch up in ‘private’ no matter where they are.