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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.

Facebook beefs up safety info but rejects PANIC BUTTON

This week Facebook announced major changes to its Safety Center but stopped short of adding a so-called "panic button", which would directly link to authorities or site monitors in the event that users felt threatened or in immediate danger.

Facebook recently formed a Safety Advisory Board, consisting of five U.K. and U.S. based organizations that specialize in providing online safety tips and advice. Facebook has also partnered with broadcasters like MTV and the BBC to educate users about safe online behavior.

The new Safety Center has content organized by audience type and by topics such as "Addressing Personal Safety" and "Responding to Objectionable Content". There is a particularly detailed and helpful "Safety for Parents" section, which is essential reading for any parent of a teen that regularly uses Facebook or any other social network.

Despite the beefed up security measures, Facebook has continued to come under fire from child safety advocates, particularly in the U.K. Pressure there mounted after the widely-publicized rape and murder of 17-year-old student Ashleigh Hall last October by a man she met on Facebook.

In a statement on its web site, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center (CEOP) clearly indicated that they thought the new measures still fell short: "We believe that without the deterrence provided by direct visible access to the CEOP button on each and every page, children will not be appropriately empowered, parents cannot be reassured, and the offender will not be deterred."

However, online safety experts in this country are divided over whether a panic button is a good idea. Instances where children have been harmed by a stranger they met online are extremely rare and, even in those few cases, the victim almost always meets up with their abuser willingly. In contrast, most kids that run into problems on social networking sites do so because of actions by their peers, such as cyber bullying or the posting of inappropriate images.

What's really needed is a program of education, where teens are taught how to use social networks and other online media safely and not indulge in the kind of risky behavior that might have negative consequences. Facebook's new Safety Center goes a long way in providing the kind of information and advice that both kids and parents need.

Do you feel that Facebook's safety measures go far enough? Would you like to see a Panic Button included on each page? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!

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