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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Keeping kids safe on Facebook

Monitoring your kids’ activities on Facebook is a delicate balancing act. When they are young and just starting out, it’s easy to demand the password or ‘friend’ them so you can keep a close eye on what they are up to.

But what about when they get older? Once kids reach high school, they start to expect a little more privacy. Having mom or dad as a Facebook friend might not be so cool. And for many parents, reading their older children’s posts – and all their friends’ posts – can start to feel a little less like monitoring and a lot more like spying.

To get around this problem, software developer Schakra has come up with a neat solution. It’s called GoGoStat Parental Guidance and it can be used by parents to take a step back from their child’s Facebook account and just monitor for risky behavior.

There is nothing underhand or secretive about the application. After the parent signs-up and provides a child’s name and e-mail address, Parental Guidance sends an invitation to the child asking him or her to accept or decline the service. This is an important security step, making sure that the parent/child relationship is confirmed.

During the confirmation process, Parental Guidance tells the child exactly what it will be looking out for:

• Posts containing ‘bad’ words or vulgarities
• Posts containing personal information – address, name of school, etc.
• Photos
• New friends

As well as vulgarities or profanities, Parental Guidance is looking for words that could indicate cyberbullying, contact with sexual predators, drug abuse, or other unsafe activity. Also, in a recent press release, Schakra emphasized the fact that new slang terms and an increasingly complex text messaging shorthand can make it hard for even the most vigilant parents to spot potentially risky behavior.

With photos and friends, Parental Guidance doesn’t take any chances. Parents are copied on all photos uploaded by their child, as well as photos in which their child is “tagged.” As well as notifying parents when a child adds a new friend, Parental Guidance also provides charts detailing the ages and locations of everyone in their child’s Friend list.

The idea with Parental Guidance is not to snoop but to monitor for unsafe activity. If there is no risky behavior, then reports back to the parent will be restricted to new photos and friends. “Some teens over-share, as do adults, yet the risks for teens are higher,” says Ron Stevenson, senior product manager at Schakra. “We believe that technology together with regular family discussions can help alleviate some of the dangers of social networking sites.”

GoGoStat Parental Guidance also gets around the increasing problem of kids ‘hiding’ Facebook posts and pictures from parents. Even if you friend your kids, Facebook’s privacy settings give them complete control over what you can and can’t see. With Parental Guidance, nothing is hidden. In fact, as a parent, you don’t even have to have a Facebook account to receive reports. And once you make the decision to stop monitoring, it’s easy to remove your child from the program.

If you’re looking to take the training wheels off and give your child a little more Facebook privacy, then GoGoStat Parental Guidance is an excellent – and free – solution.

Comment by Siva, posted 5/14/2011, 4:48 PM:

Thanks for the wonderful article! I love kids very much, and I have started a new website called Pumpyumpy4Children. It will serve two main purposes, one is for connecting the orphanage homes and other for the children. It follows the standard social networking features. For a clear information on how to use, go through the link http://pumpyumpy.com/how-to-use/
Comment by Betsy Brown Braun, posted 3/7/2011, 1:35 PM:

I think you need to clarify that children have to be 14 years old to even have a FB account. Many parents overlook that detail and allow their children access before it is "legal." Not a great message for the child. Sounds like a fantastic program and approach.
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