Facebook Safety & Kids

"Check it Out! with Dawn" is a blogger who shares her wisdom with us at SheSpeaks.

I was listening to the radio the other day and heard that Facebook has now become the #1 resource for thiefs and I can honestly say I am not surprised!

One year ago, police in New Hampshire broke up a robbery ring that reportedly robbed 18 homes using information posted on Facebook. Over $100,000 in property was stolen. I frequently see posts, from my own friends sometimes that tell us exactly where they are and what they are doing and even who they are doing it with! This is very dangerous and many people don't realize just how dangerous it can be. Even though you may feel you are safe because only your "friends" see your info, that is not always the case.

Your friends have friends who even though they are not your friends, still have access to you through them. If you have your profile filled out completely, they now have your home and work locations as well as any other personal info you included. And have you ever considered how many false profiles there are on Facebook?

There have been reported sex offenders with multiple accounts under profiles of women and children. And that leads me to my biggest peeve about Facebook and that more and more children under 13 are creating profiles by lying about their ages, some without the consent of their parents, but also many with full parental consent and the knowledge that they are lying to set up an account. According to statistics,3.6 million out of 153 million monthly users of Facebook in America are under 12 years old.

Many say it's the future and it's just a way to keep in touch with family afar or all their friends already have an account so they had to have one too or even they just play games, they don't really post anything. But games like Farmville allow people you don't know to connect with you and your child. While Facebook reportedly deletes hundreds of underage accounts every day, kids are still using it and at increasingly younger ages. I read an article the other day that said an 11 year old boy in New York State accepted a friend request from a girl in his class but the girls account turned out to be fake and the person behind the whole thing posted images of the boy on X rated sites along with some very nasty comments. Just think about that!

I personally have a 14 year old as well as a 12 and an 11 year old and none of them have Facebook accounts, nor will they anytime in the near future. My personal opinion is that once you see it or read it, you've seen it and you cannot unsee or unread it. It is there in the mind and you can't take it away. I have already had to deal with the issues that come along with "socializing" my child and it broke my heart to know that he saw something that he didn't need to see, shouldnt have seen and along with that came the questions and issues that had to be addressed. Some much too soon for me!

If you're a parent who has made the decision to allow your children, of any age, to have a Facebook profile, here are a few things you can do to help protect them and you:

*Keep your home address and birthdate private - don't publish it to your profile

*Don't publish those on-location photos- post them when you have returned from your trip or outing

*Choose "Limited Profile" on your child's page - so pictures cannot be viewed close-up

*Talk to your kids about the potential dangers of Facebook and what is appropriate to post

*Don't post travel plans - if you do, make sure your insurance is paid up and get an alarm system

*Establish "Friends Rules" - who they can and cannot add to their friends list and who must remail on the list, like mom and dad

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