How Do I Create a Safe Facebook Account?
Contrary to many public opinions, Facebook is not all bad. Facebook has been getting a bad rap about everything from privacy issues to the presence of sexual predators. But a Facebook account in the right hands and used in the right way can be a fun, safe way to connect with friends and family. Here are some steps to creating a safe account for your child or teen.
(1) Make sure your child is 13 years of age or older. Facebook simply isn't safe for children under 13. (Also, the Facebook terms of service state that you must be 13 or older to create an account, so anyone younger than this who has an account had to lie to do it.)
(2) Go to http://www.facebook.com/. Fill in the fields on the screen and then click the green Sign Up button.
(3) You'll be asked if you want to find friends through your email address. Say no by clicking skip this step on the bottom right corner of the dialogue box.
(4) You'll be asked if you want to find friends by giving Facebook some information about where you work or go to school. Again, click skip on the bottom right corner of the box.
(5) Then you will be asked to set your profile picture. If you choose, you can skip this step as well. If you never upload a photo, your profile picture will remain the generic, faceless silhouette you see below.
If you want to use a picture, feel free to do so. However, you should be sure that your child's photo does not portray him or her in an even remotely sexual way. A generic, smiling face shot is best. Or, if you want to be extra safe, you can use some other photo, like the flowers we chose for this Facebook account.
(6) Your Facebook profile is now created. Take a moment to properly adjust your privacy settings by following the next few steps. Facebook's default privacy settings are too public for kids and teens.
(7) Skip item 1. Being selective about whom you add as friends is absolutely essential to staying safe on Facebook. This option will comb your email account and try to add anyone you've ever emailed as a friend on this account—and this is not something you want on a safe Facebook account.
(8) Go to item 2 and click on Edit Profile. Don't fill out your hometown or current city, and uncheck the Show my sex in my profile box. Under birthday, be sure to choose either Show only month & day in my profile or Don't show my birthday in my profile. Otherwise, your child's age will be visible on their profile. Don't fill out any of the relationship information, and if you choose to add details such as a brief bio or a few favorite quotations, be sure they are not crude, provocative, offensive, or sexual in any way. Also, be sure that the bio does not give overly personal information. When you are done, hit Save Changes.
(9) Hit the back button a few times until you are back at the page with the 4 choices. Skip item 3 and click item 4. Click on Edit your privacy settings (which is just under the graphic near the top of the page). On the next screen, click Customize settings near the bottom and center of the box.
(10) Adjust all settings to Friends Only.
(11) In the lower-left hand corner of the Privacy Settings page, under Apps and Websites click Edit Your Settings.
(12) On the row that says Info accessible through your friends click on the Edit Settings button
(13) This popup shows all of the information that can be exposed through Facebook applications, games and connected websites that your friends use. Un-check all the boxes and then Save Changes.
(14) You now have a super safe Facebook page all set to go. From here, you have three concerns. First, be sure that your child only friends people he or she knows and trusts in real life. Friends have access to anything your child posts, so adding vague acquaintances or potential cyberbullies is a dangerous move. Second, be sure your child's posts are not unkind, crude, sexual, or overly personal. Any text, video, or photo posted should be squeaky clean.
Lastly, be sure you can access your child's profile. Insist that your child add you as a friend. This will allow you to see about 80 percent of your child's Facebook activity. The only way to see 100 percent of what's going on is to have your child's password so that you can sign into the account and check things out for yourself. Is this drastic? Maybe, maybe not. It's a judgment call you'll have to make on a child-by-child basis.
Do what you must to keep your child safe, but do it in a kind and non-embarrassing way. We'll be frank: kids are embarrassed to have parents on Facebook. This may sound harsh, but your kids will thank you for following our advice on How to Be a Good Facebook Parent.
Remember, the best way to encourage proper Internet behavior on Facebook is communcation. Have fun!