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Social networks: how to handle things for your teenager?

Context and key figures

Chatting, sharing stuff with "friends" forming part of one's circle, expressing views or saying things through photos or videos: the principle of social networks is well known nowadays. They have even become collaborative tools for schoolwork. Suddenly, even the youngest kids are getting into them. However, despite the passion and pleasure involved in using social networks, it's important not to lose sight of the things one needs to bear in mind.

Our tips

Lay down clear rules with your child from the outset

No personal accounts on social networks for children under 13 years of age (see the COPPA law in the USA, concerning the protection of data in respect of minors). Insist that this must not become your child's sole activity. Bear in mind that, to ensure that children get enough sleep, and to make it easier for them to go to sleep, doctors recommend that they should cease all digital activity at least one hour before they go to bed. The medical profession also advises that no screen should be left in lit-up mode near one's bed at night; and tablets and smartphones should systematically be switched to "flight" mode to avoid being woken up by message alerts.

Remind your child over and over again that social networks are public spaces

According to Béatrice Copper-Royer, a clinical psychologist specialising in children and young persons, social networks are not zones where no laws apply. Children should be taught to be careful what they post online, as they may regret such publication when they're older: what's published online stays there for ever. Remind your child that propriety and good manners must be the order of the day. Caution is also needed regarding exchanges of images which are subject to copyright, or the publication of "stolen" photos. Don't forget that, as their parent or legal guardian, you will be held liable, and punished, for any infringement by them of the law.

Teach your child to take certain precautions

Sit down with your child and together configure their profile on the social networks, so that only their friends can see what they post there and so that they can keep control over what they share. They should be taught about the importance of "ereputation" and privacy, so that they exercise care in that regard. They should be told that anyone can seek to recover their personal data via the social networks. Share good habits with them: for example, always using a pseudonym, taking care not to reveal personal information in the context of any online conversation, prize draw, survey or questionnaire, and deactivating the geolocation function. Advise them to exercise caution, not to take anything at face value and above all, not to agree to meet up with any stranger encountered on a social network (beware of indoctrination, paedophilia, etc.).

Put in place parental controls and antivirus and firewall protection

These tools help you to ensure that doubtful content (spam, phishing, etc.) or material which is unsuitable for a youngster of your child's age (violence, pornography, etc.) does not pop up when he/she is surfing the web, and that your child's data are not hacked. Bear in mind that each device must be individually protected, and that the internet can be accessed via the home wi-fi or via the mobile network.

Avoid unpleasant surprises when the bill arrives

You will doubtless be aware that it is now possible to buy things online from a social network. To prevent spending limits from being exceeded, youngsters should be encouraged to check their consumption at regular intervals from the customer area, especially when travelling or calling abroad, and to keep an eye on their use of games or apps which are not free of charge. Where necessary, you should activate, from your customer area, the options of capping or blocking certain expenditure, especially the cost of premium services such as Internet+, SMS+, MMS+; and you should install a blocking code for the purchase of apps.