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Better Business Bureau ®
Start With Trust®
Mississippi
BBB Advice on Keeping Kids Safe on Social Networks
April 16, 2010
Ridgeland, Miss., May 10, 2010 - The popularity of social networking continues to grow among kids. They can provide a secure way for kids to connect with each other, but they can also be exploited for any number of nefarious purposes. According to iStrategy Labs, the number of users on Facebook that are between the ages of 13 and 18 in 2009 grew to 10.7 million. While Facebook and MySpace require all users to be at least 13 years old, some sites are geared for children even younger.

“In many instances, kids know more about computers and the Internet than their parents; however, it’s important to remember that kids aren’t old enough to understand all of the various threats that lurk online,” said Bill Moak, President/CEO of the Mississippi Better Business Bureau. “Even if they’re intimidated by technology, parents need to supervise the computer use of children in the house as well as educate their kids on how to play it safe online.”

The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips for parents who want to help keep their kids safe online:

Explain the difference between sharing and over-sharing. While social networking is about sharing photos, thoughts and experiences, children should never share personal information such as phone numbers, address, bank account numbers, passwords or Social Security numbers.  

“Never talk to strangers” applies online too. One of the first rules we teach our kids is never to talk to strangers. Remind them that the rule also applies when online. Even though chatting with a stranger online can seem harmless, the relationship can evolve and grow until the stranger has earned your child’s trust—and can then exploit it.

Set strict privacy settings. Social networking sites let users determine who they want to share information with. Have children restrict access to their profile to only friends or users in safe networks such as their school, clubs or church groups.

Keep the channels of communication open. Let kids know that you are always ready to talk if they are ever threatened, bullied or feel uncomfortable about an experience they had online.

Join them online. If you haven’t already, set up your own account in the same social networks to help you better understand what social networking is all about.

Federal law requires sites collecting identifying information from children under 13 to get a parent’s consent first. Report concerns about data collection from children under 13 to the Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus at www.caru.org/complaint.

You can learn more about how to keep your kids safe online at http://www.onguardonline.gov/topics/net-cetera.aspx.