Social Networking 101: A Parent’s Guide
by Woodeene Koenig-Bricker
What is it?
Social networking is text-based communication via smart phones or the Web. Some, like Facebook and Twitter, are giant “bulletin boards” where you post where you are, what you are doing, thoughts, pictures and whatever else you want. (Facebook alone has 500 million members!) Others, such as texting and instant messaging, are one-on-one communication. The four major online social-networking sites are Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Linkedin, the latter used mainly by professionals for business connections.
Share the Details
This new technology means we can easily share details of daily life, including pictures, with friends and family flung around the world. With the click of a button, everyone takes part vicariously in a wedding or birthday with a sense of nearness and intimacy that has never before been possible. For shut-ins, the elderly or the ill, such technology can be a literal godsend. For parents with children away at college or in the military, the choice is often social communication or no communication.
Using social networking requires some common-sense protection. Just as you wouldn’t give out personal information to someone you see on the street, you shouldn’t be telling the world your private business, including phone, physical address, financial information, etc., on a social site that literally anyone can read. For safety’s sake, limit viewers to family and friends. Because scammers and predators are out there, make sure kids, especially tweens, don’t strike up conversations with strangers. Check the settings on your family’s pages and restrict accordingly. Remind kids to never start a conversation with someone they don’t know.
Watch the Time
While social networking can be fun, one of the biggest dangers is that it can become addictive. The average Facebook user spends nearly an hour a day online, which can cut into real-life activities and communication. Limiting the time spent on such sites is advisable for both kids and adults.
Do Unto Others
Online communication sometimes tempts us to say things we might not if we were face to face. Since sarcasm, teasing and tonality are difficult to distinguish, miscommunication can be problematic. Err on the side of care by picking your words carefully and avoiding negative comments. The Online Golden Rule is simple: if you wouldn’t want to read it, then don’t write it!
Go Forth and Network
Social networking has become an almost essential part of most modern families, including the Church. Even the Vatican uses Twitter as a way to communicate to the faithful (www.twitter.com/news_va_en). With a reasonable amount of care, social networking can help you and your loved ones communicate more effectively and grow even closer.
What’s That You Say?
Sometimes the language of social network sites makes Greek look like, well, Greek. Here are few common words and symbols:
- :) = smile
- :( = frown
- ;) = wink
- B/C = Because
- BRB = Be right back
- BTW = By the way
- IDK = I don’t know
- IMO = In my opinion
- IMHO = In my humble opinion
- J/K = Just kidding
- J/J = Just joking
- LOL = Laughing Out Loud
- ROTF = Rolling On The Floor
A Prayer: Deliver Us from Viruses
St. Isidore of Seville is the patron saint of the Internet and computer users. Before going online, ask for his guidance.
Prayer to St. Isidore of Seville
Almighty and eternal God,
we beseech Thee that,
through the example of St. Isidore, bishop and doctor,
during our journeys through the Internet
we will direct our hands and eyes
only to that which is pleasing to Thee
and treat with charity and patience
all those souls whom we encounter.
Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
From the February 2011 issue of Take Out: Family Faith on the Go
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