Bullying (cyberbullying) on social networking sites is a growing concern and it is hard to proactively protect children against it. They should therefore be encouraged to report any instances to you as soon as they happen so that you can either report them to the site administrators and/or remove your child from the site.
A key lesson which applies to the whole of the web, but particularly social networking sites is that people may not be who they pretend to be. Children need to be acutely aware of this as they may encounter individuals posing as potential friends who have more unhealthy intentions.
Social networking sites encourage sharing and there is a risk that children will share too much information if they are not aware of the consequences. Before allowing a child on a social networking site it they should again be made aware of these risks and it may well be worth working with them to ensure their privacy settings are set to an appropriate level before they start using the site.
With all the risks, the key is to have an open dialogue with your child so that they are aware of internet safety, understand the potential threats and feel encouraged to report any issues to you. You cannot prevent every threat but if your child is educated on the dangers and has an open channel of communication with you, you can steer a safe course and your child will get the most out of the internet.
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