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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

We live in a world where most everything is public and every aspect of our lives can be accessed online, thanks to social media. Whether this is a good or bad thing all depends on what is posted and who it is shared with. As adults, we are better equipped to handle these decisions ourselves. Our kids, on the other hand, need to be especially careful and open to guidance. Facebook and other social-media sites have established privacy settings aimed at helping teens navigate their networks with care. Recent changes, however, have made privacy a tricky road to navigate.

While privacy settings are certainly helpful to a degree, it’s up to parents to help teach children how to utilize these privacy settings. Here are some ways to do just that to be sure that your child is safe online.

Facing Facts About Facebook
Last year, Facebook made changes to its privacy settings for teens. They now have the option to share their comments and photos with the general public on Facebook instead of being limited to just friends. Teens can also allow others to follow their feeds, even if those other Facebook users are not friends. This opens them up to strangers, marketers and, possibly, even pedophiles.

Why did Facebook do this? It is trying to compete with other social media sites that have been drawing the younger set away. Privacy settings are still there, they just need to be properly set and maintained.

Other social media sites like Twitter and Instagram also offer protected feeds, but you’ll need to make changes to the default settings in order to take advantage of them.

On Facebook, new underage users’ posts by default are only shown to friends, not friends of friends or the general public. If your teen decides to change this setting, they will be warned that they are opening themselves up to friend requests from people they may not know.

What Teens Should Know
Make sure your child understands the privacy settings and what they mean. It may help to take an online tutorial so you and your child can clearly understand them. Once you’re sure your teen has a clear picture of the settings, it’s important to talk about what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate to post online.

Privacy settings can only do so much. It’s much more helpful for your child to have a handle on what can be said and what should remain private. For example, comments about the recent power outage that kept him from posting are fine. But ranting about his dad’s callous boss at said power-generation company is not. Commenting on your family’s upcoming beach vacation is fine. Giving out specific dates you will all be away is not.

Essentially, teens should be aware that everything that they post online will be in the public domain. All photos, comments and postings will be on Facebook and even if they are protected by privacy settings, they can be accessed by hackers. Kids need to exercise common sense and demonstrate that they are responsible enough to properly manage their accounts.

It’s important for teens to understand privacy settings and use them, but it’s just as important for them to be responsible when it comes to posts. The best thing to do is talk to your teen before and after the account is opened and make sure he or she is mature enough to handle life in the online world.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want their teens to be careful with their privacy. Because it’s important.