Tips for Controlling Your Teen's Facebook Usage

Tips for keeping your teen's Facebook usage under control:

Parry Aftab, an attorney and Internet safety expert, said parents need to be as vigilant about their teens' computer habits as they would be about any other aspects of their children's lives.

If the Internet use becomes excessive, that's a problem, she said.

How to determine if something is excessive: Ask yourself a series of questions: Do your children still have offline friends? Are they still involved in after-school activities and sports? Do they go to real-life parties? What are their grades like?

Keep an eye on what your teens are posting on Facebook and how often they're posting it. If you see that they're changing their status every half hour and during school hours, something's wrong, Aftab said.

Measure your children's activities against those of their friends. If they are much more active on Facebook than their friends are, take note of that. If you believe your teens are at risk, you can use monitoring software that will automatically record what they're posting and when they're posting it. One monitoring site is Spectorsoft.com

Make use of parental control software products that allow you to control how much time your teen spends online from their computers. McAfee.com, Symantec.com and Safeeyes.com are a few of the many sites that offer such software.

Recognize that your teen can log into Facebook from his or her X-Box, cellphone or from most mobile gaming devices. According to Facebook, more than 65 million active users of the Web site sign on to the social networking site through their mobile devices. That means your teen doesn't have to be sitting in front of his or her laptop or desktop computer to go online.

Trust your gut. If something seems wrong, examine all aspects of your children's life, including their computer and social networking use.

If you believe your child has a serious problem, contact Aftab at the charity she runs, Wiredsafety.org, for more help on how to proceed.

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