Personal Information Sharing:

According to the survey by McAffee called “The Secret Online Lives of Teens”, 95% of kids surveyed are “confident in their ability to stay safe online”, but “27% say that they have accidentally infected their home computer with a virus or other malware, and 14% say that they shared their passwords with friends”. Also, “more teens also admit to giving their cell phone numbers to someone online whom they don’t know in the offline world (12% this year, compared to 8% in 2008)”. It is important to specifically teach and monitor what of your child or student’s personal information they are posting online.

Personal Information to Share:

  • Name– First name definitely; you may chose to have your child or student use only their first name, first and middle name, or first and last name. This is a choice to make for the person, but if they are only friending people they actually know a first and last name should be a safe bet.
  • Birthday-Month and year only
  • School
  • Email address– most require you have an email to sign-up for their social networking site
  • Interests, Hobbies, and Quotes

Personal Information not to Share:

  • Personal financial information– credit card numbers, account information, amount of money they have
  • Social Security numbers, account numbers or and information that can lead to identify theft (NET CETERA: Chatting with Kids About Being Online)
  • Name, address, and phone number to people you do not recognize or in a public forum, see wall posting (Chandra, 2010)
  • Do not share passwords– In addition do not click “remember me” options on public computers (Tips for Online Safety, 2010)

Privacy Settings:

Privacy settings on social networking sites are for your child or student’s safety. If used to their maximum extent, you can feel comfortable in what and who see their information. See the Tools/Suggestions tab for videos and visuals on privacy settings and the Tutorials page for an updated video by our team on Facebook privacy settings.

Facebook and Myspace Privacy:

  • Choose “Friends Only”– This option will make it so only those the member has accepted a friendship with will be able to view their profile and information
  • Follow the personal information guidelines– This will ensure that the information provided is not allowing even an accepted friend to hurt or thief important information from your child or student.
  • Follow the friending guidelines– This will ensure that the friends your child or student has accepted are people they know and can trust.
  • See the Facebook privacy center, tutorials tab, or tools/suggestions for more details
  • See the image below for Facebook privacy screen


  • Uncheck “add location to tweets”– This ensures that connected to your child or student’s tweets is where they are currently located
  • Check “protect my tweets”– With this checked, tweets are no longer public, but only available to be viewed by those approved by the member, similar to friending someone on Facebook or Myspace.
  • Follow the Twitter Feeds information
  • See the image below of the privacy screen in Twitter

Photo/Video Posting:

Photo statistics

  • In 2007 from a random sample of 2423 adolecent MySpace pages, about 88% of active MySpace and 70% of occasional users had a profile picture. (Patchin, J. & Hinduja, S., 2007)
  • 5.8% of active users had a photo of them self in a swimsuit or underwear and 3.9% of active users had a photo of a friend in a swimsuit or underwear. (Patchin, J. & Hinduja, S., 2007)

Characteristics of appropriate/safe photos/videos to post

  • Wearing clothing that would be okay for everyone (even a boss or family member) to see you in (, 2008)
  • No background that can reveal your location (, 2008)
  • Everyone in the photos/videos gave permission (, 2008)
  • Follows terms of use of the site it is posted to (, 2008)
  • Follows copyright regulations (, 2008)

Characteristics of inappropriate/unsafe photos/videos to post

  • In clothing not appropriate for everyone to see (, 2008)
  • Background that gives away location or identifying information (licence plate, house numbers) (, 2008)
  • Something you would want to delete later (, 2008)
  • Contains bystanders who have not given permission or children whose parents have not given permission (, 2008)
  • Is mean or nasty to others (, 2008)

Remember: Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter profile picture is public, but there is always the option not to have one or to put a picture of something you are interested in such as a hobby, pet, or character you enjoy on tv or in a movie.

Friends Additions:

Friends on social networking sites is a loose meaning of the term in face to face interactions. A “friend” on a social network can be someone that your child or student knows personally from school or other social activities, a family member, a friend of a friend, someone with similar interests, an admirer (“fan”), or even a stranger. It is necessary to teach your child or student the importance of keeping an eye on who they become “friends” with as they can then access their profile with their information and updates.

Friends Addition Statistics:

Social networking with ‘people I have never met’

From : An interview for children 11-16 years old in the UK (Sharples, M., Graber, R., Harrison, C, & Logan, K., 2009)

Never % Rarely % Occasionally % Frequently %
‘I have friendship invitations from people I have never met.’ 19 26 32 22
‘I have accepted such invitations.’ 29 22 29 22
I keep up friendships with people I have never met.’ 29 28 27 15

Note: Becoming “friends” with a teacher may cross over the line of appropriate teacher-student relationship.  For an example, follow the link below to an article from CNN.

Appropriate Friends:

  • Friends from real life
  • Family members
  • Same-age acquaintances from school/neighborhood/other social activities/work/etc.

Inappropriate Friends:

  • Anyone your child or student does not already know
  • People who tease or bully your child or student
  • Acquaintances who are older

Wall Posting, Status Updates, and Twitter Feeds:

What is a status update? Wall post? Tweet?:

On each of the social networking sites we are targeting (Facebook, Myspace, Twitter), a member has a profile. Each site has the ability to have the member provide a short message that can be viewed often immediately following their name. On Facebook and Myspace, this is called a status and on Twitter, this is known as a tweet or twitter feed.  Statuses and tweets can be updated as often or infrequent as desired and can include several different types of information. They can be anything from an enjoyable quote, update on the member’s day, or a shout out to a friend or family member. It is important that you specifically teach your child or student what is information is appropriate for an update and what is inappropriate. According to the survey titled “The Secret Online Lives of Teens”, 69% of 13–17 year old surveyed “said they provided a status update for a social networking website account that detailed their physical location.” This has become increasingly dangerous to due to sites such as, in which people looking to burglarize homes utilizes tweets and status updates in order to find empty home. See the CNN video on Facebook status updates that have led to burglaries.

Wall posting is different from status updates, in that it is not a open comment but a directed comment or question to one person or group. This can also be done on Twitter in what is called a response tweet. A person’s wall is a message board found on their specific profile. While these comments or questions are directed at a specific person or group, these are still able to be seen by that person’s and your friends. Personal information, questions, or responses are not appropriate for wall posting or response tweeting, but if a social network is the only way of receiving this information your child or student should utilize the personal message option found on Facebook and Myspace. This is similar to an email and can not be viewed by anyone other than the recipient. Many people are utilizing this option to get contact information for weddings and reunions. See the Tools/Suggestions tab for a lesson plan and visual related to wall posting and messaging.

See an example of a Facebook status update and wall posting here.

Status Updates and Tweets that are appropriate:

  • How one is feeling(eg. “I’m so happy the sun is shining!” or “I’m bummed it’s raining today”)
  • General statement about the day or location (eg. “I got a case of the Mondays” or “Sweet home, Champaign”)
  • Life update (eg. “I got a new car today!” or “My sister is having a baby!”)
  • Positive shout out to a friend or family member (eg. “Happy Birthday to my friend, Bob” or “Thanks Julie for a great dinner”)
  • Quotes from media (eg. ” ‘I’ll be back’ ” or ” ‘Just another manic Monday’ “)
  • Comments on activities  (eg. “Saw Toy Story 3 and loved it !” or “Didn’t really like the new Harry Potter book”)
  • Comments on hobbies or interests (eg. “Go Bears!” or “I love sewing!”)

Wall posts that are appropriate:

  • Positive comment on someone’s pictures, status update, or interests (eg. “I like your new haircut”)
  • General questions (eg. “How are you?” or “Long time no see, what’s new?”)
  • General life updates (eg. “How is your new house?” or “I saw your sister this weekend in Chicago”)
  • Comments or questions about shared interests (eg. “Did you read the new Twilight book?” or “How was Toy Story 3?”)

Status Updates and Tweets that are not appropriate:

  • Specific locations or vacations (eg. “We will be gone for 10 days” or “I’m downtown with my family all night”)
  • Negative or bullying shout out (eg. “I don’t like you Bob” or “My teacher, Mrs. S, is the worst”)
  • Any personal information (eg. “My phone number is 555-5555, call me!”)

Wall posts that are not appropriate:

  • Negative comment on someone’s pictures, status update, or interests (eg. “Your shirt is ugly in that picture”)
  • Specific questions looking for personal information (eg. “What’s your phone number?” or “Where do you live?”)
  • Harassing or stalking comments (eg. “I really like you, come meet me at Lexi’s party” or “I have seen you at the mall and want to meet up”)

A general rule of thumb is to keep all wall posting, status updates, and tweeting as light and general as possible. This will keep your child or student from falling into any of the inappropriate categories. And as added security, your child or student can always choose “remove” next to a wall post or status update in order to have that comment (their’s or someone else’s) from their wall.


Chandra, P. (2010, 02 06). Retrieved July 8, 2010, from 10 Best Ways to Protect Your Kids from Internet Threats:

NET CETERA: Chatting with Kids About Being Online. (n.d.). Retrieved July 8, 2010, from

Patchin, J. & Hinduja, S.  (2007)  Trends in online social networking: adolescent use of MySpace over time.  New Media & Society.  12(2). 197-216.

Sharples, M., Graber, R., Harrison, C, & Logan, K. (2009)  E-safety and web 2.0 for children aged 11-16.  Journal of Computer Assisted Learning.  25.  70-84.

Simon, M., CNN.  (2008, August 13).  Online student-teacher friendships can be tricky.  Retrieved July 30, 2010, from:

Tech Parenting Group.  (2008).  Connect safely top 10 safety tips for video-sharing. Retrieved July 30, 2010 from:

“The Secret Online Lives of Teens” McAfee 2010: 1-9. PDF from:

Tips for Online Safety. (2010). Retrieved July 08, 2010, from Google:

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