This is currently a repository of Social Media Safety Information for Teens, Teachers, and Parents. Look through the blog archives for more posts about Internet safety for kids. This area is here mostly for archival purposes, and because the information here is really interesting. I will update broken links and such from time to time. Just send me a note if you see something that needs correcting.
Guides for Parents and Teachers
Online Social Savvy Original: Round-Up of Parental Control Tools for the Web
Parents’ Guide to FaceBook at Connect Safely – in-depth coverage, including great pictures to help navigate settings and discussing “why?” you would use them.
Parents’ guide to Facebook by The Australian Broadcasting Corp – a concise set of tips for a Facebook beginner.
Facecrooks has a blog and Safety Center with Facebook scam alerts and advice on security settings. Facebook often introduces new “features” with little or no fanfare. Facecrooks is a great place to read about the changes and they give very clear instructions on how to disable them, if you so choose.
Stop Bullying Campaigns & Tip Sheets by US Dept of Health and Human Services in partnership with US Dept of Justice, US Dept of Education & The White House – focusing on how kids, teens, young adults, parents, educators and others in the community can prevent or stop bullying.
Essential Resources on Bullying for Educators and Books, CDs, DVDs & Sites on Bullying (listed by age/grade) at School Library Journal
NetSmartz Workshop from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children – several age-appropriate programs targeting Blogging, Cell Phones, Cyberbullying, Gaming, Predators, Revealing Too Much, and Social Networking.
Great Web Sites for Kids recommended by the American Library Association
42 Interesting Ways* to use an iPad in the Classroom – A creative Google doc full of ideas for kids & iPads.
Acceptable Use Policies in Web 2.0 & Mobile Era: A Guide for School Districts by Consortium for School Networking
SM-Positive Social Media Sites for Kids Under 13yo
Dr. Michele Borba is a Child Expert, Author, Speaker, Educational Consultant and terrific blogger about many parenting issues, including Internet Safety and Bullying.
Cyberbullying Research Center is a go-to site for news and information about “the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of cyberbullying among adolescents.”
Other Useful Online Resources and Sites
Speak Up Blog, on Project Tomorrow Site
Alerts and Other Resources
Parents, please consider “black-listing” these web sites which have been identified as being potentially harmful for tweens and teens. At the least, be aware of and discuss the kinds of sites available to your children. Also note that while they are found on the internet, most are also available on mobile phones.
Location-based Social Network Tools – like Foursquare, Gowalla, and Facebook Places – have been identified as potentially dangerous for children by Kaspersky Lab researcher Stefan Tanase. According to USA Today, location-based tools “offer incentives for using a smartphone’s GPS locator to post on Facebook and Twitter where the user is located. This makes it easy for predators to discover a potential victim’s whereabouts.” Tanase states that “The potential for misuse outweighs their usefulness.” This is by no means a comprehensive list; social applications for mobile phones are a fast-growing industry and many combine GPS features to connect you to nearby users!
Online Slam Books – Traditionally a notebook passed around Jr/Sr High School, they have now gone virtual, often as a Facebook page or a blog. Slam Books are often either a place to insult and “slam” a specific person or to “slam” opinions in response to a specific question.
Slamming people is often also referred to as a “Burn Book”, and is considered cyberbullying. Although reportedly “offline” in Nov 2010, BurnBook.com invited students to post graphic content about peers. Recently (Feb 22, 2011), a new BurnBook page surfaced on Facebook targeting students in the Phoenix area. There is also a new Facebook page called “TheBurnBook.”
Topic-based Slam Books do not target individuals and may be harmless, depending on the type of questions asked. A search on Facebook of “Slam Book” reveals just how varied the questions of the day can be. For instance, researching this led us to the Bang Book page where users are invited “to post your sex stories anonymously or let the world know who you are!”
Online Chat/Web Cam Sites – Online chat is a way of communicating with others in a “chat room” via real time texts, and in some cases include audio and video capability. Many of these sites are not moderated and are dangerous for children.
Chatroulette is the most popular online chat that combines text, audio and video. Instead of a chat room, users are randomly paired for conversations with strangers. A search for “Chatroulette” reveals many copy-cat sites.
Disturbingly, we also found teenschatroulette which claims to protect kids under age 21 with their registration process, which consists of reviewing a picture and a video file that prove you look under 21! This page also links to a large number of other chat sites.
Anonymous Social Forums – Social forums which feature the capability to share anonymous comments can be rife with cyberbullies. Don’t forget that even sites which require a log-in have no real way of verifying the user’s information. Authorities may be able to track the log-in to an IP address after a crime is committed, but not before.
4chan is considered an imageboard because all threads must begin with a picture. Replies may or may not include images. Users are anonymous and there is no registration process. Some forums are listed as “(18+)” and require your kids to click a button on a Disclaimer before they can access “mature content.” Even more dangerous, the “Adult (18+)” and “Misc. (18+)” forums are listed right next to age-appropriate discussions (anime, video games, sports, etc.) Please, be aware that the worst of these “(18+)” forums is referred to as “/b/”. If you overhear your kids talking about something they saw on “b”, they are probably discussing this popular message board.
Also note that much of 4chan’s material is available on Encyclopedia Dramatica, a satirical wiki that often contains content from shock sites. If you are going to block access to 4chan, you must also block Encyclopedia Dramatica.
AboutEveryone is a new website, in BETA, which allows you to target any Facebook profile (just copy their URL) and then anonymously post “what you really think about them.” There is no log-in or registration process required. Clearly, this is nothing but centralized cyberbullying.
Formspring is an online question-and-answer based social forum described by Rachel J. Simmons as the “latest cyberscourge for teens” due to its misuse by teens – in particular teen girls – for sharing mean-spirited comments about peers.
LiveJournal is a blogging site that also allows “friending” similar to Facebook and threaded comments similar to a message board. It has been around since 1999 (ancient in internet-time!) and is mainly populated with 17-30 year old users. There is nothing inherently dangerous with LiveJournal bloggers and communities, and (as bloggers) we would argue that there are many benefits to writing and sharing. However, there is no denying that a small portion of online communities (including LiveJournal) are dedicated to discussing topics that parents must be aware of:
- eating disorders (referred to as Pro-Ana, Ana, Pro-Mia, or Thinspiration)
- deliberate self-harming (or self injury, sometimes called “cutters” even though the harming can take many forms)
- substance abuse
These are obviously serious problems that, unfortunately, many parents must struggle with and we believe that all parents should be aware of these communities.
Topix is an aggregate news site with forums that allow anonymous posts. Mary K. Hoal points out that “the comment threads are riddled with everything from spam to local gossip” under the guise of discussing local news. While the site is targeted toward adults, so are many websites that kids end up on. Send your teens elsewhere for news!
“Kid” Game Sites – Inappropriate online games that are targeted at children.
Miss Bimbo game is targeted at girls ages 7-17 with the goal of creating the “hottest, coolest, most famous bimbo” and is nominated by child and parenting expert Dr. Borba to her “Internet Hall of Shame”.