Letter to parents re: Facebook
RE: SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES
We are all well aware of the growing phenomenon of social networking its attraction for children and young people. Social networking is here to stay and is very important to young people.
Most young people have Facebook accounts and use them regularly. Parents and teachers need to make sure that all young people learn to use the technology safely and responsibly and understand the underlying risks.
To many of us the social networking phenomenon is strange and unfamiliar. This letter is an attempt to provide information, advice and strategies to parents that will help keep our young people safe and allow them to become responsible users of technology.
Information about Facebook
- It is against the Facebook policies for children under the age of 13 to use Facebook. Are you aware that your children may be using false dates of birth in order to create their accounts?
- Some young people may not understand the issues around privacy and have inadequate privacy settings allowing anyone, anywhere to search the sites for photos or participate in conversations with them potentially exposing themselves to approaches by online predators.
- Some young people use inappropriate language (swearing, name calling, bullying) on their pages. Once posted it can be seen by all of their ‘friends’ on Facebook and depending on the privacy settings of their ‘friends’, potentially be seen by thousands of ‘friends of friends’. Children do not understand that this becomes a permanent record available to thousands of people.
- Some young people use Facebook to bully or tease others with inappropriate comments or ‘put-downs’. Other young people then post comments such as “I agree”, “LOL” or click on the thumbs-up button to indicate that they ‘like’ the comment or picture. This compounds the bullying or harassment and can be very damaging to the target of the bullying.
- Under Australian law, inappropriate use of a carriage service (internet, PDA, mobile phone) can be a ‘criminal offence’ if used to “cause offence, bully, harass or embarrass”. Any person 10 years of age or older can be charged and convicted.
- Section 21A of the Victorian Crimes Act (1958) also known as Brodie’s Law, states that it is an offence to act in any “…way that could reasonably be expected to arouse apprehension or fear in the victim’ or acting with the ‘…intention of causing physical or mental harm to the victim’.
- Some young people’s Facebook pages include photos of other young people at school or at school camp. This is dangerous practice and should not be done without the permission of the subject/s of the photo. Posting photos and ‘tagging’ friends in photos potentially identifies the subjects to a large number of people some of whom are trolling Facebook and other sites for predatory reasons.
The concept of ‘Friends’ on Facebook
Parents should be monitoring who their children’s Facebook ‘friends’ are. Young people brag about the number of ‘friends’ they have on Facebook and can be indiscriminate in who they add as a ‘friend’. This leads to “friendships” with unknown people some of who’s motives for using Facebook are frightening.
Advice for parents
- Take an interest in your child’s online activities including Facebook ask them to explain things to you.
- Ask to be listed as a Facebook ‘friend’ so that you have can see what is on your child’s page.
- Check at least weekly what your child is posting on their page and who they are talking about (or to) ‘on-line’. Monitor ‘conversations’ that are posted in reference to photos and may not be obvious on your child’s ‘wall’.
- Monitor their Facebook friends list. Who are they accepting as a friend?
- Many users are unaware that “checking in” to somewhere actually provides the exact address of where you checked in including the street number. For example, tag yourself “at home, on the couch” and your friends and your friends’ friends and so on can see your home address. This is called ‘Geo tagging’.
- Geo tagging can apply to photos as well, be careful of what is posted, a picture of a nice new pushbike might attract a thief.
- Be careful of inadvertently providing information that should be kept private. “Three more sleeps til we go to FIJI!!! alerts people to the fact that your house may be empty and vulnerable. Announce your holiday once you return put any photos up accessible to friends only.
- Some young people give their passwords to friends; sometimes it’s to access games or for other reasons. It is considered a measure of trust. Sharing passwords is fraught with danger. Warn your children strongly against it. Friendships come and go; today’s best friend can become tomorrow’s worst enemy. All too frequently “friends” log into their “friends’ account and post offensive and abusive messages on someone else’s page under your child’s name.
If you find that your child is being harassed on-line, please report it to the school and print out a hard-copy of the page/s. Never ever, respond! Delete or block the offending ‘friend’ and use the ‘Report this Page’ link on Facebook/YouTube. In Facebook the ‘Help Centre’ is located under the ‘Account’ tab.
We verify the allegation by getting a hard copy of the offending comments. Sometimes young people will ‘sign-on’ to their account and show us the relevant comments that have been posted. If you are listed as a friend, you can see and print anything offensive. The school treats incidents of on-line harassment very seriously. We follow up with parents immediately and in some cases are obliged to report matters to the Police.
Every child and family signs the Digital Users Agreement at the start of each year. This agreement clearly states that children agree that they will not use the Internet, email or mobile phones for teasing or bullying or any other inappropriate use. Children are not permitted to use Facebook at school and access is a blocked by the school IT system.
The Internet is an increasingly important part of our day to day communication with others. It provides us with enormous opportunities. It is important that we ensure our children use the Internet responsibly and safely at home and at school.
Should you want further information on this topic or need advice or assistance please contact one of our Assistant Principals or myself at the school on 9708 1319 or email via the contact tab on our school website.
The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) guidelines on acceptable use of the internet is available at:
A fact sheet for parents and carers has been designed to provide useful strategies and tips for parents in dealing with incidents of bullying and unacceptable behaviour. It is available in multiple languages:
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) have a great website to help parents understand and deal with cyber safety matters. http://www.cybersmart.gov.au
Lifeline cyberbullying support materials
Other useful websites
www.cybernetrix.com.au – Internet safety options for Secondary Schools