I first heard about Formspring.me from Raleigh-based parenting expert Amy McCready, who tweeted about it several weeks ago. Then I read about it in the New York Times this week.
According to the story, Formspring is a pretty new social networking site that many parents and school officials aren't aware of. The discussion is anonymous, according to the story. So many of the comments are insulting and even sexual. Some of those comments may have been linked to the suicide of a 17-year-old girl this year. Here's the story about the website.
So when I read the story, I went back to McCready to see if she might have some advice for parents of kids, mostly tweens and teens, who may be on Formspring ... or any other social networking site for that matter.
McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, offered these three tips…
1. Engage your kids in regular discussions about social media. Listen without judging to build a relationship of mutual trust. If they perceive that you “don’t approve” of social media, they’re less likely to share their online experiences or come to you if a concerning situation arises.
2. Be informed. One of the first steps in helping your child be safe when using social media is for you to be informed about the social media sites – Facebook, MySpace and now Formspring. Learn how to navigate around the social media sites and stay on top of new developments. If your child has a Facebook page and you don’t – that’s a great opportunity for her to teach you how to set up your own Facebook account. Be sure to be your child’s Facebook friend – but be sure not to post anything that would embarrass him or her!
3. Reinforce the message that “everything is public.” Before posting anything, ask your child to consider how he or she would feel if that news were broadcast to the whole school, teachers, coaches and administrators. If you wouldn’t want everyone to know it – don’t post it!
There's more information on how to talk to kids about cyber-bullying on McCready's website. Check out a recent article by guest blogger, Rachel Simmons on the Positive Parenting Solutions Blog.