If people at your house are concerned about their or others' privacy in social-networking sites, there's help at GetNetWise.org now. The nonprofit, Washington-based site (for full disclosure I'm a big fan and on GNW's Advisory Board) has simple, step-by-step video tutorials on how to turn on privacy features in three of the most popular social sites: Facebook, MySpace, and Xanga.
Now, you may be one of those Net-literate people who knows there are thousands of social-networking sites and sites on phones and the Web with profiles, media-sharing, and other social-networking features. This fact in no way diminishes the value of these tutorials because…
1. The three sites they're about together have well over 200 million profiles on them, and
2. Though each site has a unique set-up, the tutorials show (parents, mostly) that privacy protection is not rocket science.
They illustrate how easy it is to use privacy tools in social sites, which promotes parent-child discussion and may help get kids over a big hurdle we've noticed in the ConnectSafely.org forum which social networkers have trouble clearing: checking out the tools and protections their favorites sites provide them. It's that age-old aversion we all have to reading instructions, but it keeps getting more important.
So, armed with the clear audio-visual info in these tutorials, parents can go through the privacy features with young social networkers and have informed conversations with older ones about how they're protecting their privacy – from restricting access to their profiles and photos to deciding if search engines can list them to blocking comments and other communications from people who aren't their friends. There are more options in these sites than GetNetWise could possibly cover in a 2-3-minute video, so hopefully these little tutorials will make it easier for people to take a look at all the ways they can manage their privacy and reputations on the social Web.
* "Online spin control"
* "Protecting teen reputations on Web 2.0"
* Our book, MySpace Unraveled, attempts to do something quite similar: demystify teens' social-networking experiences for parents with some background and an illustrated guide to how it works. Our reasoning: When parents understand how things work, we're less likely to overreact and send kids into "stealth mode," which can put them at greater risk than if they're using responsible Web sites we know about at home, where we (parents) still have some influence.