Facebook is the world’s biggest social network. Every day, more than a billion people use the service to post status updates, photos and videos, or just to see what their friends are up to.  Children are only allowed to join once they’re aged 13 or over. But in reality, lots of people younger than that use the service. This is because Facebook can’t check how old you are, it only asks you not to lie. Hence it’s simple for younger users to sign up. Facebook’s popularity makes it a great way to share information, but it also brings inherent dangers. As such, it’s important your children stay safe while using it.

  • Connecting with people

Facebook is really a big friends’ network – the more friends you have, the more you’ll see, whether it’s status updates, links to articles, or photos and videos. Anyone can send a friend request to anyone – you don’t need to have met the person in real life, or even know about them. As long as you can search for them, you can send a friend request.

However, you don’t have to accept every friend request you receive. If you do accept, they’ll be able to see your posts, comment on them and ‘like’ them. And you’ll be able to do the same to their posts. If you don’t accept the request, the person won’t be notified, they just won’t get access to your profile.

You can set your profile so anyone can see it without sending a friend request. But this isn’t advised for safety reasons.

  • Dangers of Facebook

The more people that use a social network, the higher chance there is that some of them will be dangerous. Seeing as Facebook is the world’s most popular social network, and it’s so easy to connect with people, there are many dangers to be aware of.

  1. Grooming: Unless they take proper precautions, your child might be at risk of being contacted by sexual predators. Often these predators pose as other children in order to befriend kids, then build up a trusting relationship. Once this is established, the predator might convince them to send explicit photos of themselves, or to meet up in person where they can abuse them.
  2. Oversharing: Unless they’re taught the dangers, children could play into predators’ hands by oversharing photos of themselves. There’s also the danger of the child being exposed to explicit content.
  3. Cyberbullying: But the danger isn’t only from strangers. Your child is at risk of being cyberbullied by people in their peer group, and being subjected to peer pressure to do or say things they otherwise wouldn’t.

These may be more traditional ‘playground’ dangers, but because of the exposure of the web, and the fact photos and updates can be stored forever, they could have far worse repercussions for your child.

Is there anything else parents can do?

It’s important to have a dialogue with your children in which you make clear the dangers of Facebook. Not only is it vital they’re aware of the risks to themselves, they should make sure they don’t bully, mistreat or subject to peer pressure anyone else using the service.

Encourage them to think before they post something, and stress that they should never send explicit photos of themselves to anyone, friends included. Most importantly of all, make sure they let you know if they see anything untoward or threatening on Facebook, and create an environment in which they feel comfortable approaching you about potentially sensitive or embarrassing subject matter.

Click the links below to read more and to see tips on how to stay safe on Facebook.

Originally posted on BT.com: Tips to stay safe on Facebook
Read more in this article: Cyberbullying and sexting: How might they affect your child?