Setting Boundaries: Smart Social Networking

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Computer-teens Peter Ames Carlin’s column on The Oregonian asks “Is Facebook’s easy intimacy replacing real friendships?” He talks about how social networking can wiggle its way into our lives, starting with a few close friends and growing to consume all of our time. He asks:

Soon you’re spending more time communicating with friends and family online than you do in the old-fashioned, face-to-face way. And sometimes you have to wonder: Is this the best thing that ever happened to my social life, or the worst? Is it even healthy? Is everyone else as caught up in this as I am?

Peter goes on to raise even more questions: Is there too much sharing? Do we need to know all of the details? How do we deal with (what we feel are) inappropriate information posted by our “friends”?

While the answers he received from his Facebook friends don’t give any concrete answers, they are reminders of smart social networking basics:

  1. Never, ever post anything online that you wouldn’t want printed on the front page of your local newspaper. That includes words and pictures.
  2. Read the website’s privacy policy. Check your privacy settings — Who can see your profile? Just your friends? Friends of friends? Anyone?
  3. Un-friend anyone who posts anything that makes you uncomfortable.
  4. Use groups to interact with others who share common interests. You don’t have to friend people you don’t know personally just to be able to talk about hobbies or interests.

Yoursphere.com has default settings and built-in features that make these safety standards automatically implemented for our members. Here are just a few of them:

  • Teen profiles, blogs and personal photo galleries are set to private, visible only to the friends that they have personally approved.
  • All of the posts and image descriptions are moderated by Keibi, which automatically “flags” any potentially inappropriate content. Every post and image also have a “flag” link so members can let us know of anything they aren’t comfortable with.
  • Because of the wide range of ages who can join Yoursphere (from age 9 to 17), we have built-in “friend” rules that keep members age 13 and older from “friending” anyone who’s more than three years younger than they are. And members from age 9 to 12 cannot friend anyone more than three years older than they are. That helps keep our youngest members as secure as we can!
  • Spheres are social hubs, or groups, where members can interact with non-friends without having to add them to their circle of friends. (Of course, they can interact with their friends inside the spheres too!)

Here’s the bottom line: We know that youngsters sometimes don’t have the experience and forethought to practice “safe networking,” so we’ve built in these features to make it easier for them to stay safe online. Thought you’d like to know!

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