Children on Facebook

Facebook has been accused by UK police of ignoring children’s safety after it emerged that the number of complaints of alleged grooming and bullying on the site have almost quadrupled this year, says a report in the Telegraph.

The article cites Jim Gamble of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre in the UK confirming a ‘significant increase in complaints from parents and children reporting alleged paedophiles, bullies and hackers exploiting the site.’

The Facebook phenomenon is a truly amazing communication tool. It’s perfect for staying in-touch, at hardly any financial cost, with friends and family who may be abroad or even in another part of the country. It also allows you to upload photos and video clips of, well practically anything.

When it comes to children, Facebook requires that you input your date of birth, and anyone under 13 is not accepted. I got around this by putting in a fake date of birth to create a page for Hannah. Hannah’s page is primarily there to promote sales of our book, but within days of the page being up she received ‘friend’ requests from a variety of cretins all over the globe. What these cretins don’t know is that I manage the page and decide who gets in and who does not.

Teen online friends

I agree that Facebook should be doing more to protect children, and especially teenagers. I have several ‘friends’ on my list, who are teenage kids of friends and family, and it’s sometimes a bit disconcerting to hear them share an emotional experience, or a raucous night out, but I accept it as research for when my little angels reach that scary age. The language and grammar is truly out of this world, as in from another planet!

Bottom line is that it remains our responsibility as parents to prepare our kids for the perils of new technology. Sure it might seem foreign to older parents who might not be as internet savvy as they’d like to be, but I assure it is not rocket science. Familiarize yourself with the applications and devices like Facebook, Twitter, Blackberry, iPhones etc. The buck has to stop with us as parents.

And the time to do it is now. Hannah’s messages and communication on Facebook is filtered by me and comes through my Blackberry. I delete anything undesirable, and will inform her of a message from genuine friends or family and she is allowed to respond accordingly. She is aware of the potential dangers out there, and I can only hope that this ‘education’ will stand her in good stead when she hits the teenage years and all hell breaks loose with the hormones and rebel streak.

Just recently a friend in Amsterdam posted a disillusioned message on his page saying he was considering closing his account because unsolicited messages were appearing on his page. I informed him of the settings option on his page which would allow him to filter messages and friends. If we as parents don’t know the risks and benefits of new technology, how can we expect our children to be safe around it?

How much access do your children have online?

Read more by Marlon Abrahams
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