At what age can a child become a Facebook member?
As per the Facebook guidelines children below 13 years of age are not allowed to have an account on the site. In fact, the site has a Safety Resource centre, to help parents, educators and children themselves to protect their privacy while using the website. However, the site still has a large number of children who are underage, an issue they are battling with everyday.
What are the potential problems of an underage child becoming a Facebook member?
There is a good reason why the rule of becoming a member only at 13 years of age has been put into place at Facebook. At a young age, children may not be able to make the distinction between a private life and a public one, and more importantly realise the impact of putting something personal on the internet. Also, they may expose themselves to unwanted attention from potential cyber bullies and paedophiles that may misuse their personal information.
How can I protect my older child's identity on Facebook?
The first thing that you need to do as a parent, is be as open and transparent with your child as possible and communicate that you expect the same transparency from her. You need to make it your job to learn what different tools can be used to protect your child's Facebook presence, without compromising on her growing need for privacy and a social life with her peer group. We strongly recommend that every parent who has a budding teenager, who is likely to join the social media community sooner than later, learn about the safety tools. In the case of Facebook, the site provides a comprehensive list of scenarios that cover bullying, misuse of information, controlling of profile by a third party, suicide threats, eating disorders, etc. While the helplines and law-enforcement numbers mentioned on Facebook cover only the UK, US and Canads for the most part, it is still worth your while to go through them with your child before they make a profile. Click here to read the safety guidelines of Facebook.
In Mumbai, the cyber crime cell of the police is very active and prompt in responding to complaints. Visit Cyber Cell Mumbai for more tips on how to keep yourself and your child safe online. Another great resource is Information Security Awareness that lists the contact details of cyber crime cells throughout the country.
If I find out that someone unfavourable has approached my child or her information has been misused what steps can I take?
There are simple and effective tools available on Facebook to ensure your child is well-protected if a situation like this arises. However, the first step is for your child to tell you about the incident instead of trying to handle it independently. For this to happen, you need to have an open and clear line of communication with your child at all times. Once you find out of an incident like this, here are some of the steps you can take:
- Immediately report the person or page that you suspect
- Unfriend that person from your child's list
- Block that person so that the person is unable to contact your child again
- Also, check into your child's privacy settings and ensure they are set at the highest level of security