Friday, August 20, 2010

Should you post your kids name online?

Few will question the impact social media is having on our culture with personal information being shared in real time.  Like many parents I'm connected to dozens of other parents and teachers in my children's school and athletic endeavors.  I really enjoy being able to catch a glimpse of what issues and adventures other parents are encountering with their children, especially during the summer months.  I even take this a step further with my blogging and commentary on many web articles and shared stories involving my children.  Facebook can help parents unite in a more unified bond for the benefit of their children and I for one don't think social media should be avoided.  However, the sobering reality every parent should consider is that their are stalkers in this world and the emerging world of social media only gives those with malicious intent a easier hunting grounds.

A couple of questions every parent should be asking is a multi pronged front:
What information is appropriate to share online?
-Over the years I've developed a rule of thumb to use facebook information as it relates to my children in a historical fashion.  Rather than stating where my children will be in the future, I try to limit the information to where my children were in the past.  Typically only if I don't expect them to participate in that particular event again or at least on a regular basis.  Please never list that your children have gymnastics practice as an example on specific dates and times.

Should I put my children's name online?
-I urge you to either not use their name entirely, or use a nickname only specific to facebook.  Using a real nickname that you yourself call your children can back fire if your children are ever approached by a facebook stalker.

Should I list the names of their after school or extracurricular activities? 
-One time events like a Houston Texans football game or trip to Disney can give little information on where to find your children, if posted in past tense.  Listing the name of your child's daycare, sports team, or training facility can give the wrong people too much information to locate your children.

Are the pictures I post giving away this information on my or other children?
-A picture speaks a thousand words and this holds even more true for your children.  If you have great photos to share then make sure that your privacy settings are set to friends only.  Also if the pictures are recurring at the same venue over time then you may not want to continually post these.  Do the pictures have the name of the location where your children are?  Or the team they play on?

Are you protecting your kids, but giving away information on your kids friends?
-Don't let your guard drop when giving information on not only your children, but other kids as well.  If you have a great photo from some activity of your friends kids, then send them the picture and let that parent make the call to publish it to the world.

Who are your friends on facebook?
-Do you really know everyone that you're connected to on facebook?  This becomes an even higher priority when children are involved.  It's fairly easy for a stalker to pull up your alumni information if you share it and then this stalker can locate an old classmate not on facebook to create a fake profile to connect with you.  Even with privacy settings fully utilized take a second to look at all the information you are willing to share with "friends".  Everything on the web is not always what it seems.

Just some food for thought.


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