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Parents' Guide to Social Networking Sites

HVParent's hip intern spills the deets

Let's face it... Social media can be confusing and complicated.

If you're tired of your tween mocking you because you don't know the difference in a like and a follower, never fear. HVP has poked and prodded our young and hip college intern, Jacqueline to get the down-low on what the kids are doing relative to social media these days.

Read below for her expert tips on keeping up with the social media mavens:

Tip 1
Check the
privacy setting for each social media account your child has. Make sure all of his accounts are set to private. Having a private account will ensure that only the people he accepts as friends/followers will see his posts, pictures, videos, etc.

Tip 2
Sit your child down and go through his friends/followers together. Make sure that he has only allowed people he actually knows IRL (in real life) to be his friend online. Delete any questionable accounts.

Tip 3
Everything that your child posts on social media is permanent. Even if he deletes a post or picture, it is still looming about in their data or circling around the web. Stress to your child to think before they post. It might help to share some stories of social media gone wrong for people who decided to post certain things that they later regretted.

Tip 4
Make sure your child knows how to block potentially harmful accounts. If your child is being cyber-bullied, he can block the bully's account. Keep the lines of communication open with your child, so that he feels comfortable telling you if someone is bothering him on social media. Kids put a lot of stock into the amount of likes and comments they receive on social media, so even one harsh comment can put a strain on your child's self-esteem. Being able to block cyber-bullies will help your child feel empowered online rather than victimized.

Here's some more helpful information to help you and your child navigate the social media world

With more than 1 billion users, people from all over the world use Facebook daily. On this site, you can share text, links, photos, and videos. Facebook is appropriate for people 13 and older.

Facebook users can "friend" other users or “like” pages that promote shows, celebrities, products, companies, etc. Users can also join groups created by people from around the world. Your child also has the option to instant message other users, which lets them text and/or FaceTime video chat with friends either one-on-one or in a group.

When uploading photos and updating a status, users have the option to "tag" friends. When you tag someone in a post, the same post will show up on their profile (or wall). Sometimes this can prove to be difficult when friends tag you in embarrassing or inappropriate pictures. You and your child can go to the privacy settings to “Tag Review” so that you can approve or dismiss a tag.

In order to familiarize yourself with Facebook, create your own account.  Communicate with your child and check their Facebook page a few times a week to make sure that they are being responsible.

Twitter allows you to share ideas and information instantly in 140 character messages or less. These messages could be set as either public or private. Twitter users can “follow” other twitter users and can either share or “Retweet” other people’s posts. Many people use it to update what they are doing, how they are feeling about certain things, keep up with the latest news or gossip, follow famous people, and follow trends.

You can “follow” other people by clicking on the icon on their profile pages. When your account is set on private, you can approve of dismiss follow requests. The “@” symbol allows you to reply or tag people through your posts. It is how you mainly communicate with your friends and followers if you want them to see a certain post. The “#” or hashtag symbol is where you can tag messages using the hashtag symbol with phrases or keywords. When using this symbol, it can appear on searches and can start a trend where people can talk about something related to it using the message.

Use Twitter safely by not posting personal information in the bio section and by turning off  “tweet location,” which marks posts with your child's current location using his phone's GPS.

kids and technology

Instagram allows people to share, comment, and like pictures and short videos.
Instagram photos are open to the public by default. In order to set your account and pictures to private, you will need to go to privacy settings and turn on the “photos are private” or “photo privacy” option.

Photo Map consists of a map that lets users know where each photo was taken. This can be concerning for users and can be easily prevented by making sure that the “Add to Photo Map” option is set to off.

It is very easy to see graphic and inappropriate pictures when using the site's search tool, so it is important that you discuss it with your child before allowing him to create an account.

Snapchat allows users to send and receive photos/videos to and from contacts. Posts that you send to your contacts will “disappear” after a maximum of 10 seconds. You can also post pictures and videos to My Story where all your contacts will be able to see your post. You can also view your contacts' stories. There is a requirement of 13 years of age to use this app, but they do offer a “SnapKidz” version for younger kids.

Screenshots can be taken of anything sent, which means that someone can take a picture of a picture you sent them. This makes the picture not disappear and it is now permanently with that contact. When someone screenshots your snapchat picture, you will automatically receive a notification.

You can block a user by selecting the friend and then selecting “block.” The user will not be able to see your snaps or chats. You can report abuse by sending an email to safety@snapchat.com.

Jacqueline Kavana is an editorial assistant intern at Hudson Valley Parent and a senior at Mount Saint Mary College.