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Protecting your kids - from themselves
Parents, make sure your kids don't give away too much information on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook.
By Gerri Willis, CNN

NEW YORK ( -- Imagine if every dumb thing you did as a teen followed you around for the rest of your life.

By now you've heard the horror stories of cyber stalkers chatting up children online and using social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook as a virtual hunting ground. But there's a new threat and this time your child could be their own worst enemy.

Kids are being haunted by their own misguided postings - school suspensions for threatening language, police problems for bragging about vandalism, how about not getting into to your dream school because you posted pictures of a prom night bender?

A recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers showed more than 25 percent of organizations polled were using Internet searches to check out candidates.

These days leaving a trail of bad behavior can mean more than just embarrassment. So what do you do about it?

1. Get informed

As a parent you've got to get in the loop and stay there. Start by going to Wired Safety, the largest organization dedicated to helping protect kids online.

They have everything you need to know about networking sites and even tools to report any suspicious activity. Another place to find great information on how to protect your child is at the Web site of the National Crime Prevention Council.

2. Talk to your kids

Ask them to show you their profiles and when they do open up a dialogue about how their postings may follow them around for a lifetime.

Remember, just because your kid can surf circles around you doesn't mean your rules don't apply on line so work out some real world limits to Web posting.

The less personal information the better! Be careful not to scare them off though - they need to understand it's alright to turn to you if they encounter anything disturbing.

3. Use protection

Most networking sites offer some kind of privacy protection - kids can set up preferences that offer control over who can access their post or communicate with them.

Some sites - like Myspace - even have a tool for parents to delete a child's post. Every site is different but the best protection is not posting anything that might get them into trouble at all.

4. You can't beat them - so join them

If a teen knows that Mom or Dad is checking out profiles on line, they'll think twice about what they post - so why not get your own Myspace page?

Maybe a group of other parents or people at work would like to set up a network with you?

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