Tips for new Facebook parents
We have previously written about how you can monitor your child on Facebook. But what about setting the account up in the first place?
If you are not a Facebook user yourself, it's easy to be blindsided by a sudden request for an account from your child. A flat refusal might work for a while, but with over 70 percent of teens using Facebook on a regular basis, your child may start to feel left out. The last thing you want him or her to do is resent your intransigence and open an account without your knowledge.
If you are unfamiliar with Facebook or are not sure what's the right approach for a tween or young teen, here are a few tips to help get you started:
Use your own e-mail address to open the account
If you are setting up an account for a tween or young teen, use your own e-mail address or an e-mail address that you both have access to. This way, you will see friend requests as they come in and any other notifications like tags (your child's name) in posts or photos. You will also know if your child tries to change the password!
Quality not quantity
When younger kids (and some adults) first open a Facebook account, there is a tendency to equate the number of friends they have with how popular they are. That usually results in a mad dash to friend everyone they know...and quite a few people they don't! Help them resist the temptation. Building a friend list slowly but surely will make for a much more satisfying Facebook experience.
Don't allow Facebook to choose friends for your child
After you open an account, Facebook starts suggesting lots of friends for you based on previous Facebook accounts run off the same computer (very sneaky!) or your early friend choices. It will also ask for permission to search your e-mail account, so it can suggest even more friends.
Ignore them all! You and your child should carefully add friends based on your own preferences, not Facebook's.
Choose the Profile Photo carefully
The photo on your child's Facebook profile is very important. It can say volumes about how they see themselves, as well as what you, as a parent, think about them. Cutesy is OK, provocative is a no-no. If you're not comfortable having a photo of your child up there at all, then think about using a picture of a favorite pet, or maybe an avatar. (That's a cartoon-style image, not the tall blue lady from the movie!)
Be selective about the Profile Information
Although the account will be live straight away, you still need to complete the Profile Information. Click on your child's name which appears in the blue menu bar and click Update Info. Here, you can edit your Basic Info, Contact Information, Work and Education, and the things you are interested in like Sports and Arts & Entertainment.
When filling out your Profile Information, make sure that the default privacy setting is always "Friends" and not "Public." Although Facebook allows you to hide Contact Information, you should leave that blank anyway.
Once you have completed the Profile Information, go back to the menu bar and click on the little wheel next to Home. From the dropdown menu, click on Privacy Settings. Here you will be able to change the default privacy settings when your child posts updates and photos, control how your child connects with other people on Facebook, and control whether your child's Facebook account can be found through public search.
When you have updated the privacy settings, click on Timeline and Tagging. Here you will be able to control who can add things to your child's timeline and how to manage "tagging." Always err on the side of caution and make sure contact is restricted to "Friends" wherever possible.
Remember, Facebook has a strong tendency towards openness, which may be fine later in life. When your child starts out in the social networking world, the emphasis should be on privacy.
Be careful about adding older Friends
Be careful about who you and your child add as friends. That 19-year-old cousin might be a great guy at Thanksgiving dinners and family reunions but if he's just started college and likes to party, there may be things on his Facebook page that you would rather your child didn't see. Remember, Facebook works both ways: Your child will be able to see everything that is posted to her friends' pages and even to some friends of friends' pages.
Teach what's appropriate
Once your child's account is up-and-running, spend some time together discussing what's appropriate to write or post and what's best left off the site. Teach them to ask permission before posting photos of other people. (Particularly photos of Mommy in a swimsuit!) Talk about updates and photos that are posted by your child's friends and what you like or don't like about them.
As we suggested before, set-up the right way, Facebook can provide an invaluable opportunity for parents to teach cyber awareness and appropriate online behavior. Grab the opportunity before it's too late!
Do you have other tips for kids – and their parents – starting out on Facebook? Share them with The Online Mom!