A Parent's Guide to Formspring (page 2)

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July 30, 2010
Updated on Jul 30, 2010

Should Kids Use Formspring?

Rogaski and Patchin say parents shouldn’t forbid their kids from using the site. That will only make them more curious – and if they really want to use Formspring, they’ll find a way.

But Orsini disagrees. He’s gained media attention for telling parents to keep their kids off social-networking sites like Facebook until high school. And given the hateful and sexual content he’s seen so much of on Formspring, he sees no reason for anyone – of any age – to use it. Saying kids will use certain websites no matter what "doesn’t give parents credit for their role," he says. “When your kid’s 13, you tell them not to smoke or drink,” he says. “I would never tell a parent that they’re a good parent if they let their kids use Formspring.”

Orsini advises putting computers in a public part in your home, not your child’s bedroom. Have a central place where all electronics must stay at night, he says, and install parental control software on your computers.

Formspring Tips

If you let your children to use Formspring, remember that the site’s own terms of service say users have to be at least 13. Here are 6 more rules to pass on, courtesy of Formspring itself:

  • Remind your kids that they are responsible for everything on their profile pages, which are on the Internet for everyone to see. Don’t share phone numbers, home addresses, e-mail addresses or other personal information.
  • Tell your child not to impersonate anyone else on the site. Formspring will permanently disable the account of anyone found doing this.
  • Advise your child not to bully, threaten or harass users.
  • If your children get questions that make them uncomfortable, they should ignore them and tell an adult.
  • Your kids can choose not to receive questions posed anonymously. They can also protect their accounts, meaning no one can see their pages without permission. This can be done by logging into the “Privacy” tab on Formspring’s account settings.
  • Tell your kids to block any users who harass or bully them. Violations of Formspring’s rules can be reported to site administrators who will check into the problem, perhaps contacting law enforcement. Sacchetti says this usually happens at a user’s request.

Patchin and Rogaski offer three more tips:

  • Ask your kids what they know about Formspring. If they’re using it, ask them to show you how it works and why they like it.
  • Tell your children not to accept anonymous questions or use anonymity as a cover for being mean. “This is not an appropriate place to say these things to people,” Rogaski says.
  • If your child encounters a bully on Formspring, save screenshots and all other evidence of the bullying. Chances are the bully is someone from your child’s school or social circle, Patchin says, and that means the bully is probably acting mean in the offline world, too. In that case, the problem can be brought to a principal or other authority figure.

For ages, teens and tweens have worried about what others think of them. And some kids are inevitably mean to each other. Keeping up with how kids interact online will help you guide your children.

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