Guide to Keeping Children Safe on Facebook Video Chat
Recently, Facebook announced a partnership with Skype, a popular online video chat service, that allows Facebook users to chat face-to-face, using their webcam and microphone, with their Facebook friends.
The risks and benefits of video chat in the hands of children depends on the intention behind the connection being made, and whether the activity is monitored for safety. In many ways, allowing a child to use the Internet alone is akin to letting him go play in a park alone. Just like you would teach your child never to accept things from strangers or leave the grounds, he should also know to be wary of online strangers, even if they have spoken on more than one occasion.
Lay down ground rules. Make sure your child knows never to give out a real name, physical address, parents' names, or the name of the school he goes to. Teach your children that, on the Internet, people do not always use their real names. Instruct your children to never video chat with someone they do not know in real life. Facebook video calling has a security feature that allows only your child’s confirmed friends to contact him using video chat. However, make sure your child isn’t friends with just anyone.
Perform a friend review. Does your child really know five hundred friends well enough to know who is real and who is fake? Who is a teenager and who is an adult in disguise? Help your child clean up their friend list by routinely going through each person and deleting individuals you or your child doesn’t know, a process known as ‘unfriending’. To stop someone from contacting your child, such as a bully or a known adult who is harassing them, you can also block the person from interacting with your child in any way on Facebook. SafetyWeb’s friend alerts can notify parents when your child makes a new Facebook friend, and if that friend is over the age of twenty-one so you can scrutinize if they are a real friend.
Use video calling with approved friend lists. Help your child set up a parent-approved list of friends whom you know and with whom your child feels safe having face-to-face video contact. You can put trusted friends and family members into a separate friends list that shows them when your child is online for video chat, and allows your child to chat with them directly.
Block bullies and strangers. If you don’t want certain friends video chatting with your child, create a friend list that includes the people you’d like to prevent from chatting with your child, called “Blocked Friends”.
- Click the settings icon in the right corner of the chat list.
- Select “Edit Availability...”
- Check the box next to the friend list you’d like to appear unavailable to and click “Close”. Your child will no longer appear online to these friends.
Teach your child how to ‘Go Offline’. Teach your child how to make themselves temporarily unavailable for Facebook video chat:
Click on the Chat bar at the bottom right of the screen, select Options, and then click Go Offline. This will make them unavailable for both instant messages and video conferencing.
Let your child know it’s okay to “Ignore” a friend. If your child receives chat requests from friends they don’t want to talk to, they can ‘Ignore’ the call or move the friend to a ‘Blocked Friends’ list so they cannot be contacted by that person again.
Monitor your child's online activity. With the rise of teen "sexting," or sending sexually-charged text messages, it's likely that many teens will want to use the service for inappropriate show-and-tell with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Keep the computer in a public area and remind your children that anything they say or do in a video chat can be recorded and sent to anyone.
Since keeping your child safe online was likely a priority even before Facebook video chat, adapting basic Internet safety practices to video chat should be common sense. Following these safety tips can help minimize the risk to children, but won't remove them entirely. Make sure you stay connected with your child about how they are using Facebook and who they are connecting with on video calling and chat.
For an easy and automated solution to monitor your child’s privacy settings and friend activity on Facebook, sign up for SafetyWeb alerts.
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