Posts Tagged ‘safety’

(My) Tween(s) and Social Networking

April 14, 2011

Which of these sites is your tween on?As the parent of one tween (10.5 who will be 11 in two months) and an 8.5 who wants to do what her big sister does-social networks like Facebook, Twitter, You Tube etc are sources of big concern for me-and I know a lot about them.  Which seems to put me well ahead of my peers who are parents confronting these issues.

To fully understand the issue I (and other parents of tweens today) face-you need to understand the landscape.  Chances are if  you are reading this blog, you do-but for the sake of clarity:

At school, softball, camp-pretty much any place more than three kids gather, eventually the conversation turns to Facebook, texting, You Tube and any one of a myriad of social games.  Now, like many parents I am guilty of enabling this conversation by outfitting my kids with the iPod Touch-which opens up the magic of the app store to them.  I am aware of at least three apps that my girls and their friends use regularly that are not compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).  And these are the ones I worry most about.

Through the age of 13 (which is why its the magic number for Facebook, You Tube, Twitter etc) COPA provides some rigorous rules about how kids under 13 are treated on websites.  Speaking as someone who has had to consider COPPA compliance-it’s not treated lightly in large companies.  I can see in some start-up environments though there being more of a “let’s wait to see if someone complains” attitude.

Basically, COPPA provides strong content guidelines and enforcement as well as protections against the collection of PID (personal identification). Enforcement of COPPA  falls on the Federal Trade Commission.

So back to my parenting conundrum.  Both of my kids (more so 10.5) have friends who are on Facebook, regularly post videos to You Tube and are on social gaming sites like Second Life etc.  My kids, not so much.  They have email, I let them on Opionaided (it is COPPA compliant) and they can play social games targeted at tweens that are COPPA compliant.

But the battle continues. Then comes the part that confuses me, although I know it should not.  Since becoming a single parent, I am more apt (perhaps more open) to talking with other parents at school events, temple, parties etc-and they seem unaware of the kind of information their children are sharing on social networks.

They are shocked at what I know about their kids and their family trips-just through a casual glance at Facebook.

Now this is a lesson I am trying to teach my kids as well-as I will not count on the FTC or COPPA compliance to keep my kids net safe.  That said, its not easy to say, “no” to the relentless stream of asks to join Facebook, You Tube and other sites.

When the girls want to try a new site out, I tell them I have to look at it first–and the first thing I look for is COPPA compliance-sites that are COPPA compliant brag about it, so its not hard to find.

The other items I look for:

  • Is there a secure log in procedure on the sign up page? (look for the HTTPS or the lock)
  • Look through the TOS on the site and check on their policy for PID-do they trade it or sell it to third parties?
  • Once registered, make sure the sign in page is also a secure log in.
  • I keep the girls’ computer in the middle of the family room.  That is their online portal, where I can dip in as needed.
The other thing I do (and perhaps its a bit over the top) is I have my iPhone set to get the girls’ email so I know what they are signing up for, and can shut them down pretty quickly.
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Coming of Age in a Social Media World

February 10, 2009

Sometimes its funny how disparate events can get you thinking.

In this case a couple of things made me think about what is the right age to introduce social media to kids.

Case Study 1:

My niece is about to be 12 and she and her friends all have Facebook pages.  After taking a look at them, I realized that she combined with her friends were not being internet smart. When I spoke with her parents, they pleaded Facebook illiteracy.

Case Study 2:

At the birthday party of a friends daughter I had decent conversations about Facebook, Twitter and text messaging with kids older than mine (in the 9-15) age range. Also saw the devices some of the older kids were carrying (impressive). Now I am waiting for my kids to point this out to me.

Case Study 3:

(and this is a verifiable true story) While sitting in a Starbucks with someone in the industry discussing mobile and social media the actress Renee Zellweger who wanted to know more about what we were talking about.

So, three very disparate interactions, but all based around the concepts of social media and how we can and can’t interact with one another.

I am trying to think about this from the perspective of my kids or my niece–coming of age with all of this–and the conversation I had with my sister-in law who is Facebook illiterate.  She was telling me how my niece will text over talking on the phone (I will too) and how she really did not understand how the interactions between friends on Facebook played out.

Now I admit to being pushed into this stuff professionally–and enjoying the crap out of it.  But for someone who is coming of age with all of this–Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Social Median, Stumbled Upon etc all out there– in the You Tube generation–its a different perspective.

Suddenly there are no boundaries, and the world is a smaller place. My friend from sleep-away camp who lived in Texas and was in a different time zone and needed coordination to call is now just a simple text away. It makes a difference.

But that instant contact capabaility also changes the dynamic–and lets face it, when I was 12 the “long distance bill” was something to think about as I chatted with a friend in Montreal. Today, there is no such thing.

So, while the world is now readily available as we come of age in this social media world, we have to think about the consequences–when is there too much information out there.  A good friend of mine had her world’s collide recently when her professional life collided with her private lifestyle.  My conversation with my niece was about what she and her friends collectively post about themselves on Facebook.

As a parent its one of my greatest fears and hopes–that my children are able to harness this power and safely have these great experiences that for me was about a pen, paper and stamp.


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