Internet Safety and Privacy Issues with Kids

facebookQuestion: “We are probably all familiar with the latest new website; Facebook. I was told by many that it is a clean and safe site, free of vulgarity and pornography and that it is filtered to be family safe. Upon entering myself and my daughter into their database and begining to download photos, and searching for family and friends, I noticed a vast array of inapropriate photos that were able to be posted. My daughter, my husband and myself have fallen victim to that quick photo that pops up that someone has chosen to post as their home photo. Everyone that is on Facebook can see it while looking for people. I have deleted my page and my dilema is this: How do I present my displeasure of this site to my daughter? She loves keeping up with her friends and family too, but this site is not safe for her. What words of advice are there for this situation? Please help me to protect my family concerning the dangers of the internet.”

Answer: I suggest you speak to your daughter about her hopes to facebook and social network online. No website online is technically clean as at any moment my blog or any other site owner can publish photos or other online content that may be offensive. Facebook cannot manage the millions of users worldwide that often post content that others feel is objectionable.

I’d first speak with your husband about your concerns. I’d them speak with your daughter about the nature of the content that you feel is not appropriate for her to see or be exposed too. I’d also encourage you to consider if this is a necessity for your daughter. How old is she? What is the nature of your relationship to her? How have you successfully spoken to her about other similar issues?

If you are going to allow her to have a Facebook account I’d recommend that you have access to it to monitor her contacts and the content on her site. Also, ensure you go in the security settings and deactivate the ‘allow nonfriends to view her friends list’ this will keep prying eyes from cracking into her account. Also, she need not post any personal information other than maybe email on her profile. You may want to read the article I wrote regarding Facebook.

Regarding content online I’d recommend K-9 web protection. It is really powerful and is offered at no cost. I also recommend OpenDNS, a free powerful program for content filtering. I run both of these on my systems at home with my own children and have attempted to ‘test’ their effectiveness. I have yet to be able to ‘get through’ the filters and they have many levels of protection. OpenDNS is also free.