Thursday, March 3, 2011

Online Safety for Tweens

Teaching tweens how to be safe online is an ongoing conversation in our house. Our tweens want to go online to look at websites, connect with their friends and family via our family's Facebook page, and check out funny videos on YouTube. And increasingly they need to go online to do research for school projects and turn in assignments via their school's intranet. We've also recently heard about a computer virus on Facebook that targets fans of Justin Bieber through a tactic known as "clickjacking" (our recent Justin Bieber contest is NOT part of that scheme).

We had the chance to chat today with the Children's Advertising Review Unit, a self-regulatory body that monitors websites and blogs to make sure that advertising to kids and the collection of information meet the of COPPA (the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act), and earlier this week we interviewed the CEO of Imbee, a new online social network for tweens (we'll post that interview later). Both conversations focused on the growing trend of tweens needing to and wanting to interact more online. (BTW, this blog does NOT collect personally identifiable information, and we have a strict editorial policy - there is no pay to play on

With tweens going online in record numbers (see our report of the latest stats on tweens online), we thought it'd be helpful to post some of the tips we've gathered:
  • NEVER post personally identifiable information online. This includes your first and last name, birthdate, address and phone number. Our own tweens use their nicknames for their email addresses to make sure that both their first and last names are not used together.
  • Our compromise with Facebook as been to create a family page that both our tweens and we have access to. Facebook's stated policy is that one must be over 13 years old to have an account, but this is easily worked around as there is no verification (did you know that 28% of tweens who are online are on Facebook?).
  • We've prevented auto photo tagging on Facebook - see our instructions here.
  • We've set strict privacy settings on our family's Facebook profile - our guidelines for these are here.
  • We've set our browser settings to a "high" security level to prevent downloads without express consent.
  • We've set our Google search settings to "safe search" to help screen out inappropriate search results.
  • Computers are not permitted in bedrooms; our tweens can only go online while sitting in common rooms of our house. Although we're well aware that this is impossible to monitor outside the home, we are very clear with our family's expectations on this matter.
  • We monitor the online visibility of our tweens by regularly "Googling" them - that way we can keep on eye on information others can see about them.
We're taken the position that rather than prohibit our tweens from going online, we're teaching them what to stay away from online. The Internet can be a great resource - our challenge is to help them get the most out of it.

What other tips does your family have to keep your tween safe online? Please share your comments below.

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