In related studies released by Seattle Children’s Research Institute, US, and published in the January issue of A rchives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine , researchers found that 54% of adolescents frequently discuss high-risk activities, including sexual behaviour, substance abuse or violence, using MySpace, the popular Social Networking Site (SNS). But this should not be cause enough for you to ban your child from having an online profile.
“As with television, movies, games and all media, social networking sites are neither inherently good nor bad,” says Dimitri Christakis, of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and the University of Washington in a press release. “Their upside needs to be acknowledged even as we remain concerned about their downside. We need to devise ways to teach teens and their parents to use the Internet responsibly.”
Lounge spoke to Effendy Ibrahim, Norton Business Lead, Asia South, Symantec, and father of four, on managing your child’s SNS profile. “First, remember parenting online is no different from parenting offline. There have to be house rules. Set those up after talking to your child. But don’t make it sound like an interrogation, rather have a conversation about who their friends are, what their posts online mean.” View your child’s online profiles periodically. It’s not an invasion of privacy; if it’s online for the world to see, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t stay on top of it. “Guide your child through privacy settings. Discretion is important.” You can also use security softwares to exercise parental control.
Symantec: “Both the Norton 360 (Rs2,880 annual subscription) and the Norton Internet Security (Rs2,115 annual subscription) have a free add-on parental control feature which allows access blockage to unsuitable websites and also prevents vital information like home address, phone number, etc., from becoming visible to everyone,” says Ibrahim. Available at all retail stores.
Trend Micro : “With TM Internet Security pack (Rs2,000 for annual subscription), you can limit Internet access by time of day, block the sites associated with gambling, social networking with four pre-set categories and prevent accidental leakage of private information,” says Amit Nath, country manager, Trend Micro. Available later this month at retail stores.
Glubble: Glubble is an add-on for the popular Firefox browser that converts the browser into a child-friendly application. Designed for children below 12, the application lets parents loosen settings, as kids grow older. Download the free application from www.glubble.com.
CYBERsitter: A pioneering online filtering software meant for homes, educational institutions and even small businesses, it can control any device that connects to the Internet including iPods. Available for $39.95 (approx. Rs2,000) at www.cybersitter.com .
Net Nanny: A popular software, the latest version of which offers parents the ability to control their children’s exposure to online games of objectionable nature, instant messengers and social networks. Buy it for $39.99 at www.netnanny.com.
Are social networking sites the new way to raising friendlier teens?
father of Ragini, 13,
and Malini, 10
My two pre-teen daughters are not allowed to be on any SNS or have a blog of their own. Our motivation in restricting both their time and activities online is simple and twofold—safety and real-world social skills. Between school activities , playing on their Wii or GameBoy and online chatting and TV, far too much time is spent sitting in one place! Playing with friends, besides the exercise, provides experience with real-world negotiation, conflict resolution and teen politics. While we trust our girls, far too many adults we know have a hard time being the same person online as they are in real life, so we just don’t feel comfortable letting them on an SNS.
mother of Atul, 14, and
It is impossible to tell our kids that they cannot be on an SNS when my husband and I are on Facebook. Children today have a world of information at their fingertips and everything about their relationships is instantaneous. I find that my kids are more in tune with their friends and are regularly in touch with cousins who live far away, thanks to Facebook. Being on SNS helps strengthen bonds and keep relationships going. However, I do limit Net access to 2 hours daily.
Online spaces enable youth to connect with peers in new ways. Most youth use online networks to extend the friendships that they navigate in the familiar contexts of school, religious organizations, sports and other local activities. They can be “always on”, in constant contact with their friends via texting, as well as in public ways through social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. With these “friendship- driven” practices, youth are almost always associating with people they already know in their offline lives. The majority of youth use new media to “hang out” and extend existing friendships in these ways.
Seema Singh in Bangalore contributed to this story.