Online Social Networking

MySpace, FaceBook, or similar online networking sites serve as a way of connecting with people and making new acquaintances over the Internet. However, social networks can be dangerous places that require caution and awareness.

Social networks make it easy for someone to put all types of personal information up on the Internet. Users usually create a "profile page" with their name, town, interests, school or place of work. It's important not to make information about oneself too specific online.

Through social networking, youngsters can establish contact with persons of all ages from all over the world. Persons who view your child's page may be able to identify your neighborhood and local places where young people hang out.  Threats, correspondence or stories that they post, even in jest, could be taken seriously by other users and law enforcement officers.  In turn, threats targeting your child should be taken seriously. Online bullying is a real issue of concern to families with children and teens.

Protect Youth Online

Parents should have frank discussions with their children about their online habits. Tell them why it's important to keep information like name, Social Security number, address, or phone number to themselves whenever they are online. Remind them that they should not share that information about other people in the family or about their friends, either.

Warn kids against giving out much factual information online.Simple, small bits of information over time add up to a lot of information about where they live, what sports they play, and where they go after school. Remind your children that many people can see their page, including their teachers, the police, a college admissions officer, or even a potential employer.

Keep Internet access out in the open. Website activity should be limited to a family area, like the kitchen or den, so you can keep an eye on when and where your kids are online, and what they're doing. Use the Internet with your kids. Be open to learning about the technology so you can keep up with them.

Use privacy settings and filtering software. Privacy settings built into your computer allow you to restrict who can access and post on your child's website. Filtering software that you can purchase will allow you to block your kids from visiting certain sites from your computer.
Remind kids that Internet predators do exist. Young people need to be told that predators really could be looking at their web pages, and that predatory attempts to lure young victims are more common than some might think. 
If they feel threatened or uncomfortable because of something online, they need to tell you and then report it to the police and the social networking site.
Let kids know that they can talk to you no matter whatInternet predators may say anything to start an online relationship, and may try to convince your child that he or she has done something wrong and can't turn to you for help. Letting your kids know that they can come to you "no matter what" is necessary to keep them safe.

Require that your children never meet any new online "friend" or acquaintance in person -- unless you' re with them. Remind young people often that they should never secretly meet anyone that they met on the Internet; always have another friend with them, and a plan for getting away from someone they meet.