Amazing Kids! Magazine

Sci-Tech Kids! — Facebook

by Genevieve L’Esperance, Sci-Tech Columnist

My cousin just got her Facebook account and while it seems the most important thing in your life it comes with a big responsibility.   Facebook is the most popular social networking site in the world. Everyone from your parents to your uncles, next door neighbors, companies and even your grandmother is on it.  For some people it’s a great way to share stories, up to the second information on your vacation at Disney or your favorite movie or tv show.

What is more important is the power that sites like Facebook have for making things you may not want to share now the  property of everyone.  Wrong choices can be very hurtful to you.

First let’s talk about why you need a Facebook account. Think about who your best friends and family are and how you communicate with them. If you see them often and have a close family with get togethers, then maybe you really don’t need a Facebook account. There are many sites for just sharing family pics and special events like vacations, your baseball finals and a list of your favorite books.  Flickr and Skydrive not only let you share these things but Skydrive will let you store and share documents so if you want to share a team work assignment with a classmate, this is really the better way to go and it makes sure that only the people you want to share it with see it.

So let’s talk about what you should and shouldn’t do when you get your account:

  • Use Privacy controls! You want to make sure that you limit people who can reach you and see your site.  There is nothing more dangerous than an open Facebook account. Sit with your parents and review your options. This is the first thing I did and as new features come out make sure to opt out of anything that makes you open to others you don’t know or may not want to share things with.
  • Only invite people you know and have met.  I see lots of people inviting other people they have never met. I know one social network specialist who says she never allows anyone to connect with her unless she has met them in person and she travels quite a bit.
  • Friend Requests: Here’s the most important option. Always check who these people are connected to if they aren’t someone you personally know. If it shows that there are other connections to other friends and it turns out your friend Daniela’s cousin in Australia (who you met when they visited this past summer) wants to be a “friend”, check with Daniela first and then your parents.  It’s probably the best example of when it’s okay to friend people far away except for close family of course. Don’t add anyone even if they look “okay” because sometimes your friends may have “friended” the wrong person.
  • Pictures and Videos: These are okay to share as long as you only “share” them with friends. A parent or an older sibling can show you how to use the right settings to ensure privacy of your most favorite moments with your best friends and family.
  • Comments and Wall Posts: We all want to have our say about something someone else did or said. This is the best time to stop and choose your words wisely! Remember whatever you say is basically in print and you can’t hide from it or deny it.  I only speak about people or places that I know and have firsthand knowledge of. And I ALWAYS only say something nice! “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything”, is a great motto to live by especially on social networking sites.
  • Tagging in photos:  Remember that other people can tag you in their photos now so not only do you want to be smart about your picture sharing you also want to be careful who takes pictures of you and ask them to respect your privacy. If you tag other people, ask them first. Maybe they don’t want to have their identities online. This is really important as some parents of your friends may become very upset if you do so without asking for permission.
  • Using and posting other materials that you don’t own: Make sure anything you link to or post on your site is not only appropriate but does not require the owner’s permission to share.
  • Sharing: Often you can “Share” something with a simple click on a link button from other people’s posts. Careful! If you haven’t checked the source it could actually be inappropriate or a virus.  You really want to check the source of anything you try to access.
  • Fan Sites: Because of my work I have a fan page so that I can better control the access and addition of content. If you have a special project that you do, like a neighborhood recycling program you want to get people involved in, setting up a fan site is a great way to get started. Being socially aware and doing community work is important and getting people on board helps. This is what is great about social networking and the one time I encourage its use. You can talk about this with your local club or school. You can see my fan site here:!/pages/GenINC/115698785118015

Social media is growing and changing and as we get more and more virtually connected we will see new ways to keep in touch, especially when your best friend is all the way in Italy.

So when you do finally get on a social media site like Facebook, remember the rules, because what gets on the internet is there for life! Remember to “play safe” in the real world and virtually.