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Parental Controls Guide 2011

Locking Down Social Networking Sites

First, thoroughly review the privacy settings of any social networking sites - Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, etc - your child uses. You should make sure their profile, posts, and most of their content is private, viewable only by their “friends” or “followers” on the social network.  In the next few pages we’ll review the privacy settings for some major social networks.

Next, if you haven’t already, join the same social networks your child uses. You can then add your child as a “friend” or “follower” to keep tabs on their activity, or at least what is public to their connections. Plus you can see who they are connected with, view what they share to the public, and possibly add them to your account to get a better idea of your child’s friends. You’ll also learn how the social network works and may better understand how you might be able to protect them.

Lastly, you should consider signing up for a service that monitors and alerts you of suspicious activity. Becoming friends with your child on the social networks doesn’t let you see everything they do or post (like if they post on someone's wall and your not friends with them). Here are a few services that can help you better monitor and analyze their social activity:

ZoneAlarm SocialGuard ($19.99/yr after the free trial): Supports up to 5 Facebook accounts. Scans for alarming words or links in private messages, status updates, and wall postings. It also features stranger detection and age analysis to flag you of potential predators.

TrueCare ($9.99/m after the 30-day free trial):  Works with Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter for your entire family. It searches their profiles, postings, and comments for problem words. You can also view the photos they post or are tagged in.

SocialShield ($10/m): Actively reports on Facebook and will tell you if your child has accounts with MySpace, Twitter, and about 50 other social networks. It analyses your child’s Facebook activity as well as the profiles and activities of their friends. You can quickly identify if there are issues by glancing at a score representing safety and reputation alerts found. You can view all the photos they post or are tagged in. Plus all their activity is logged and archived forever. The service also includes mobile phone monitoring, including call logs and statistics on who they talk and text with the most.