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Social networking

Social networking is one of the most popular online activities for children.

Seven in ten 12-15s who go online have a social media profile and they say they prefer to socialise online rather than watch TV. 

But a quarter of these friends they won’t even have met.

In this section, you’ll find three categories of tips relating to social networking, and how you can help protect your children.

Please select an option on the left

Setting up an account for your child

Try to become familiar with social networking sites. Ask your child about them, create an account yourself and find out about what it is about. Some sites have information and advice for parents. Childnet

Go through the site's terms and conditions, explaining them to your child in simple practical terms – it's important you both understand them. BBC Web Wise

Passwords are the first line of defence against cyber criminals and hackers. It’s important to pick strong passwords that are different for each account and to change them regularly. You can find ideas to help create strong passwords here. Google

Using social networks

Keep an open dialogue with your child about who they’re talking to online. Explain that because ‘friends’ have access to their personal information and can chat to them, they should only be friends with people that they trust. Talk to your child about who their ‘friends’ are, encourage them to think about where and when they ‘met’ people and whether it’s appropriate to share information with them. Think U Know

Many social websites allow children to join public groups that include everyone who goes to a certain school. Explain to your child that they should be wary of including too much information such as photos of themselves or their friends with clearly identifiable details such as street signs, number plates on cars, or the name of their school on their sweatshirts. Too much information can make your child vulnerable to cyberbullying, internet predators, internet fraud, or identity theft. Microsoft Family Safety

Make sure your children know how to report abusive comments on social networking sites. Popular social networking sites allow you to report a photo, comment or user who is potentially breaking their terms and conditions, by clicking on a report button or sending the site an email. Childnet

Make sure your child understands how to use privacy settings. If you've got a social networking page, search for your child and see what privacy settings they've got, i.e. can you get into their page or are you blocked? Mumsnet

Be careful what information you share about yourself online. The BBC’s Share Take Care site has lots of useful tips on what to avoid posting.

Social networking safety features

Many social networking providers offer a range of privacy and security tools. You can visit these pages directly using the following links:

Also, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) has teamed up with several social networking websites, including Facebook and Bebo, to provide the ClickCeop icon. This is a so-called 'panic button' that children can use to report problems or instances of abuse, which will be followed up by Ceop and the social network concerned. You can find out more about this by visiting Ceop or Which?.