The Internet has rapidly changed and grown over the past 15 to 20 years. Unfortunately, many parents don’t know as much about how the Internet works as their children do, which can pose a problem. Most teenagers and younger children are using a number of websites their parents aren’t familiar with. Some of the most common websites children use that their parents may not are social networking. These social media websites can be complicated but are necessary for parents to understand to help protect their children. What is social networking? Learn more here.

So What Is Social Networking?

Social Networking

Social networking refers to the ability to converse and meet with other individuals online. These websites were designed to make it easier for people to connect to each other. Facebook was the first one, which was created as a method for college students to keep in touch with their classmates. However, this website and others like it have expanded their purposes to be used by all types of people in all age groups, as well as businesses that were looking to connect with their customers. This has made social networking an important element in the world of the Internet and computers.

Social Networking: Helping Everyone Keep in Touch

Many students use social media as a way to keep in touch with their friends when they aren’t in school. They may connect during breaks or even at night and on weekends. Most children will add only their friends and family members to their social networking sites, but others may be more open to adding anyone who requests their friendship. Whether your child only adds people he or she personally knows or they accept any request, it is important to monitor their activity. Social websites are often used to bully other children. If you aren’t already using social media websites, it is important to register and friend your child so you can track what he or she is doing. You should also request his or her password so you can check private messages if needed. While this feels like an invasion of privacy, you need to know who your child is keeping in touch with.

Social Networking: A Variety of Options

There are many types of social media your children may be using. This is why it is so important for parents to stay on top of the latest trends in online social networking so they always know what their children are doing and who they are connecting with. Many parents are familiar with Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, these aren’t the only sites teenagers are using. In fact, many teenagers have left Facebook because they feel it has been taken over by adults and businesses. Some of the other social websites your child may be using include:

  • Tumblr — This social media website relies heavily on images and short posts. Because many teens love to use memes, this is a popular site for them to use.
  • Kik — Kik is a messaging system for smartphones that allows teens to send images and short messages to their friends.
  • Snapchat — This social messaging app is often used to send pictures with messages to their friends. This platform often poses a risk of sending inappropriate pictures.
  • Instagram — On this site, teens can share pictures they take with their friends and other followers.
  • Vine — This site is similar to Instagram but is designed to post videos instead.
  • Pheed — This social media site also allows teens to share a variety of media with their friends.

In addition to these sites, there are a larger number of other social networking sites teens are using. Some of them, such as Pinterest, are more popular, while others are fairly unknown, particularly among parents. This is all the more reason why parents need to monitor what their children are doing, whether they are using a computer or their smartphone or tablet to access the Internet.

Potential Problems with Social Networking

Now that you have answered the question, “what is a social network?” you can begin learning about the potential problems that can emerge when your children use these sites. Like any other Internet website, it is important to monitor the use and understand the potential risks so you can protect your child, regardless of his or her age.

One of the biggest problems with social networking is bullying. While bullying has long been a problem in schools, it has spread to the Internet, fed by the anonymity of websites. When children are talking to others online, especially when private messages are involved, there is a serious risk of improper statements and even threats. Any time your child or someone else makes a comment that is meant to belittle someone, it can become an instance of bullying.

In addition to bullying, there are other problems that can occur online. Because many people use their real names and locations when they use social websites, they are at risk for stalking and other problems. Therefore, it is important to talk to your child about what information they can share and how they can best protect themselves online. Many children, particularly teens who think they are safe from the dangers younger children experience online, feel as if they don’t have to protect their identities. However, it is important for everyone, even adults, to protect their private information to keep others from using it for negative purposes.

Teach Your Children to Be Safe

If your child is going to use social networking sites, it is important to set ground rules and other restrictions to ensure safety. Talk to your child about your concerns. If you aren’t sure how a specific website works, ask your child to show you how. Ask your child to use an alias if possible so their real name isn’t available for anyone to see. They should also practice not providing personal information, such as an address, phone number or even city, to anyone they don’t know in real life. Finally, it is important to end all communications with someone who makes them uncomfortable. Learning to trust their instincts is a powerful tool when spending time online.

In addition to setting ground rules for using these sites, it is critical to set restrictions on the use of the Internet altogether. This can become more difficult as your child gets older and starts using a smartphone or a computer at school. For instance, setting time limits on the amount of time your child is online after school can help prevent problems with social networking sites. In addition to a specific time limit, setting times when the devices must be off for family time or to unwind before bed can be helpful.

Another serious concern many children don’t think about is the long-term repercussions of what they post online, particularly on social websites. For instance, they may post pictures when they go to a party or may not use the most appropriate language when posting to friends. While these activities may be harmless to them now, they can have a negative impact on their future. Many employers today are looking at these websites before they choose which candidates to hire for the job. Even private profiles aren’t as safe as people assume. Therefore, what they are posting now can have negative ramifications when they are looking for a job during or after college. Be sure to talk to your child about resisting the urge to post inappropriate content. Help them understand the importance of thinking ahead before they post.

Is It All Negative?

When you ask the question “what is social networking?” you receive a lot of answers that seem to be negative. There are warnings everywhere for keeping your children safe online and on social websites. It is easy to assume that everything about these websites must be bad if there are such serious warnings associated with them. Fortunately, there are many positive uses for these websites. It’s up to you to help your teenager and younger children to grasp these sites for what they are and learn to use them to their advantage.

A Powerful Networking Tool

As the name implies, social media is designed to be a powerful networking tool. When your children are in high school, networking may seem unnecessary. However, if you think about it, high school is a time when you are preparing your child to enter the real world. Teenagers will move on to college or directly into the workforce immediately after high school. In both of these situations, they must start networking as a way to find a job and move up the ladder once they do get a job. Allowing them to start networking early can give them the tools they need for a better future.

Connect with New People

When today’s parents were children and teenagers, pen pals were common. You may have met someone at summer camp or signed up through a program at school where you were matched up with someone on the other side of the country. Regardless of how you started, you would write letters back and forth with this individual. For many, lifelong friendships developed. Today, most teenagers and children don’t write letters. Social networking is their way of connecting with other people their age in other locations. The added benefit is these children can now connect with people all over the world. With the global economy today, this is a useful skill that will help your children in their adult lives.

School Collaboration

Do you remember a time when you forgot your homework at school and had to call a friend or even the teacher to get the assignment? Or maybe you were assigned a group project and you had to meet at the local library to work on it together? Today’s kids have many of the same problems. However, they have a much easier way to collaborate with and obtain missing assignments. Social websites make it easy for them to connect with their classmates and get help with homework or work together on a school project. As long as your child uses social media appropriately, it can help them do their homework and perform better in school.

Open the Doors of Communication

Your child is likely using social networking as their preferred method of communication with friends, besides text messages of course. However, it is important to make sure you keep the lines of communication between you and your child open as well. Talk to your child about what you expect from him or her in regards to social websites and the types of social media he or she uses. Discuss your concerns and ask questions so you can better understand each site. When your child feels comfortable coming to you with problems, it will decrease the risk of something going wrong with these sites. You need to make it easy for your child to talk to you instead of making it seem like you are working against him or her.

Talk to School Administration

In most cases, school administration works hard to stay on top of the latest trends among their students. This means your child’s school can be a useful asset in learning more about social media and how your child may be using it. Contact your school to ask about any parent meetings they may have available to discuss these sites and how they can be useful to your child, as well as the dangers associated with them. A full understanding of social networking sites and how they work will allow you to guide your child along the right path.

So what is social networking? It is a powerful tool your children will be using, either now or in the future. Understanding this tool, as well as the positives and negatives of its use, can help you guide your child along the path of growing up. Times have changed, and it is important for parents to stay on top of those changes, training their children to use these new tools and keeping them safe in the process.