What social networking risks should I talk about with my children?

When it comes to talking with your children about social networking risks, the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” couldn’t be more apropos.  Information on the Internet can be shared widely and rapidly, making it nearly impossible to take back or alter once it’s out there.  Here are risks to discuss with your children when using social media:

• Sharing too much personal information.  This includes their cell phone number, address, hometown, school name and your names.  Younger children’s profiles especially should be set to “private.”
• Giving their password to anyone but you.  Explain that this allows anyone to “be” you, online.  Someone can trick a child with “Hey, did you know that if you type your password it’ll show up as asterisks?”  Needless to say, it doesn’t.
• Impulsive posting.  Photos and comments are online forever.  Think before you post.  If someone downloads them, they’ve got them.  Or, if Google or other search engines find them they keep a copy of the original content even if it’s been removed.  You can see that as “cached” if you do a Google search.  Tell your children that some college admissions boards and employers are checking social networking sites before they admit students or hire people.