How to Supervise Your Child Online

Think Tumblr is the name of a gym? Think again. See the 6 most popular websites children use and become familiar with these basic guidelines around privacy.

Think Tumblr is the name of a gym? Think again. See the 6 most popular websites children use and learn how to find your child on them.

These days, the words “social networking” and “social media” seem to stare at you from every page of every publication. But as commonplace as these words may be, they can still possess an impenetrable mystique for parents. Even if you have a Facebook page or a Twitter account, it’s hard to comprehend how your child fritters away his evenings clicking through them.

Your children grew up with these websites. For them, it’s not a fad. They don’t call it “social media.” It’s simply a part of life. It’s a space where they can spend time with friends, stay connected, and try on various personas. And each site provides different ways to do so.

The team has put together some basic guidelines around privacy that all parents should be aware of. Don’t forget, this is relevant to both parents and caregivers.

Parents, caregivers and children should agree on a reasonable amount of time online per week and which sites are permitted to be visited. Don’t share log in passwords with children and know how to restrict their access to sites that you don’t want them visiting. Think about the location of the screen that they are using and wherever possible make sure that this is in a communal space in the home such as the kitchen table.


1. Facebook
With more than 750 million active users worldwide, Facebook has become infamous and ubiquitous. Your child definitely has an account. Most of your friends probably have one too.

Inside track: As with all of these sites, every user has a profile page. Here you can post photos, status updates, your favourite music, movies, and even your marital status. But the centrepiece of every profile page is the “Wall.” This is a space for your friends to write you notes or to post videos and photos. It also functions as a log of your own activity on the site. Everything on the wall is visible to the public, unless you change your privacy settings to only allow friends or restrict certain people (as in, your parents, and bosses).

How to adjust privacy settings:

  • The blue bar at the top of every Facebook page is your navigation tool. Click on Account, in the right-hand corner.
  • A drop-down menu will appear. Select “Privacy Settings”.
  • To ensure that only friends can see the content on your page, select “Friends Only”.
  • Click the blue button to “Apply These Settings”.

For more detailed information, read Facebook’s privacy guide for parents and teachers.


2. Twitter

Inside track: Twitter is like Facebook’s little cousin. The site has no content other than user updates of no more than 140 characters. These updates, called “Tweets,” range from witty one-liners to shared National Post articles to what you ate for breakfast. Since users don’t even have a profile page, you would have to Tweet personal information in order to share it.

Because of its minimalist aesthetic, Twitter can be less intuitive than Facebook or MySpace. Maybe you’ve signed up — but how can you find your child or other friends?

Tips for use:
Here are some steps to find your child on Twitter:

  • Log-in to Twitter. You will be directed to your home page.
  • The black bar at the top of your screen is your navigation tool. Click on #Discover and on the left side of the page click on “Who to follow“.
  • A page will appear with Twitter accounts suggested for you based on whom you follow.
  • You may type your child’s name into the search bar on the upper right. But be aware that you may not find your child. For privacy reasons, she may not have linked her full name to her account-in which case she’s one step ahead of you.
  • Underneath the “Who to follow” tab, you should see another tab labelled “Find Friends”. If you have a Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail or AOL email account, allow Twitter to search your email contacts.
  • Also, look through Twitter’s list of “People you may know” located towards the bottom of the “Find Friends” page and see if your child appears on that list.
  • Now that you know your child’s Twitter “handle,” as in (@CareDotComCA), you can see who she follows and do a search within Twitter for her handle to see who is “tweeting” about her – and what they’re saying.

What if you don’t want everyone to read your — or your child’s — Tweets?

Here’s how to restrict your Twitter account, so only friends can see your updates:

  • Again, look to the black navigation bar at the top of your screen. In the right-hand corner, next to the search bar, you should see a gear icon. Click on this.
  • Once you click, a drop-down menu will appear. Choose the “Settings” option.
  • Scroll down the page until you see “Tweet Privacy”.
  • Check the box next to “Protect my Tweets”.


3. Google+

Inside track: Google plus was developed by Google to help connect people over common interests and incorporates a variety of social media sites including YouTube. With Google plus you can create circles of friends and families to share updates, photos and videos or join communities that are centred on some of your favourite hobbies, clubs and sports.

You can also connect your Google+ account to your Gmail and YouTube accounts. As with other sites, you have a profile and profile picture. This information can be searched on the web so make sure that you are comfortable with everything you and your child are writing about yourselves.

How to adjust privacy settings:

  • In the upper right-hand corner of the screen you should see your profile photo. Click on your photo.
  • Underneath your name click “Privacy”.
  • Look under the “Sharing” section at the first option labelled “Circles” and click “Manage circles”.
  • Add people you are interested in connecting with according to the circles that are provided for you. Place people that you want to share all of your information with in the “friends” and “family” circles while placing other people who you would like to limit in the “acquaintance” and “following” circles. You can create additional circles whenever you want.
  • Go back into your Privacy settings and update each area according to what circles you would like to share with. Next to “Public Profile Information” click the “Edit visibility on profile” button and on the right click “in your circles” to adjust who can view your profile.
  • You can also adjust the settings every time you post something to control who you would like to share each post with.
  • Have your child follow these same steps to ensure that she is being safe and smart about what she shares and with whom.

Where Else Could You Find Your Child?


4. Tumblr: A site for short, usually photo-based, blog posts. Users can enable a feature that allows others to ask questions anonymously. Privacy settings are available to block users who post inappropriate comments.


5. FourSquare: A location-based social site that allows users to “check in” via mobile to a location, like a favourite restaurant, in order to alert friends to their whereabouts and/or recommend menu items. For children, it’s better not to share location information. This is disabled on the mobile application above the share button. Recommend your child does not include a picture of her face, but rather a cartoon character or logo.


6. MySpace: Like Facebook, MySpace is a place where your child can chat, share photos and videos, and simply spend time. Unlike Facebook, MySpace’s profile pages are fully customizable, earning a devoted following among the more creative teen set. Be sure to look at the MySpace privacy settings and talk to your child about settings they should use.


Social networking is a growing field, and new sites are continually appearing. Try to stay informed but remember that you don’t need to know everything about them to be a good and responsible parent. The basic rules of life — morality, malice, and meaning — haven’t changed. They’ve just expanded to the digital world.



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