October 1, 2012 at 6:12 pm
by Christina Tynan-Wood
I have two Facebook-using teens so I know how difficult it is to monitor what they are up to online. If they don’t want to be supervised, they have more time and more energy to throw at avoiding me than I have to spend stalking them around the Internet. So I remind myself that the goal is not to watch everything they do but to teach them to not make mistakes. (And to verify that they haven’t.)
So when my son locked down the privacy setting on his Facebook page and isolated me in a group with other adults – teachers, parents, anyone who reports to parents — so that none of us could see posts he doesn’t want us to see, I resisted the urge to get angry or hurt. He had accomplished what I wanted: He was paying close attention to his privacy settings and giving serious thought to the repercussions of every post.
I still worry about the things I’m afraid he doesn’t know about: How much data is being collected about him and sold to marketers by the apps and games on Facebook, for example. (For more on that, check out this story I wrote on that a while back.)
But is there anything I can do about that except warn him? Yes. I suggested he install Secure.me.
If you install this Facebook app in your child’s profile, it will watch her activity and warn you of hazards. Someone tagging your child’s photo with her name? Strangers friending your child? Strong language in her profile that could mean bullying or that she doesn’t understand how to behave in a social network? Even if your child unfriends you, Secure.me will continue to alert you to mistakes and anything that looks suspect. You will probably get a lot of false alarms. But at least you will be in the loop. And the information comes to you so you don’t have to stalk your kids quite so much.
But when kids get older, it can be difficult to get them to let you install something like this. And if you have a teen like mine, who will edit code to make sure I’m not in his business, he will just uninstall it (or pick up and move to another profile) if I lay down the law. He’s doing a pretty good job of managing his profile already – even if he is mostly motivated by his desire to avoid his stalker mother.
So I suggested he install Secure.me and have it send the warnings to him. This way, Secure.me can point out posts, tags, privacy settings, and other activity it deems dangerous directly to him. Hopefully this will not only clean up his profile but also educate him to the dangers as it does. And, since the tool recently started monitoring Facebook apps for how much data they collect, it will even take care of that worry for me. And, more importantly in the long room, this will get him to think about privacy issues that will likely become a much bigger problems as he gets older. I’d like it if he asked Secure.me to send alerts about his profile to me as well. (But then I’d like it if he never drove a car, too.) But, even if he won’t do that, at least this way he has safety net.