Interacting and communicating with others

Introduction: An overwhelming realisation from this module is that more and more children are spending time online, on their cellphones, mainly to stay connected with each other. They have amassed 'friends' through social networking sites and are never far from texting or chatting someone either on the Internet or on their cellphones. This is a huge part of their lives. "The survey, carried out for National Family Week, showed that 27.5 percent of children picked “Facebook/Twitter/MSN” when asked “What is the most important thing to you?” Family still won overall with 60.4 percent, but even mobile phones were considered one of the most important things to 8.2 percent of those asked." Kids find social networking more important than family.

Social networking
There are many social networking sites for older children (R13) including Facebook, MySpaceTwitterFlickrYouTubeNing XangaFriendsterBebo and for younger children include WebkinzClub PenguinSanrio, TownKidzuiNeopetsBoom Bang TVShidonniMoshi Monsters. We will touch on two of the most popular, Moshi Monsters and Facebook.

Moshi Monsters is a very popular site with younger children (15 millions users worldwide). It encourages them to go collecting friends. Moshi monsters is a safe game but can teach bad habits about collecting friends as well as the 'need' to feed your animal every day, which can be addictive. For more on Moshi Monsters, go to Moshi please. Facebook is so popular, statistics show around 250 million people are registered account users. Facebook is also R13 and has it's own inherent set of issues. For an in-depth look at Facebook's privacy issues and more, go to Protecting your Facebook identity.

Other issues with social networking include sites such as Formspring. This is a questions and answers website. Formspring allows its users to set up a profile page, from which anyone can ask them questions and also post comments. The questions and their given answers (often brutally honest) are then published on the user’s profile page. It can open the door for harassment and bullying, due to the anonymity of the entries. For more on Formspring, go to


Some other ways to connect is through Skype and video networking sites such as Stickam that streams real-time webcam footage. This is a great way for connecting families and friends - all around the world. However, some sites you need to be very weary of. Chatroulette, which is a website that pairs random strangers from around the world together for webcam-based conversations. For more information on the issues with Chatroulette, go to

Anyone can take videos of themselves, upload these to Youtube or stream video from their webcam. Most of which captures some loving memories. Again this can lead to some distastrous consequences if inappropriate material is created, shared and spread on the Internet. Once the material has been sent, there is no way of retrieving it fully. For more on video sharing explanations, facts, pitfalls and helpful tips, go to

Gaming is another way for young people to connect with others through virtual worlds. Gaming can be extremely fun and some are educational and good for the brain. Gaming can involve downloading software or playing online. Games can range from poker (which can be highly addictive) to arcade type games with chat facilitates. It used to be that if you wanted to play with others, you needed to be in the same room, but now with the Internet, multi-player means you can play with anyone who happens to be in the same game at the same time as you. Massive multi-player games are very popular, especially those that involve strategy and role-play, but beware, games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto have R18 ratings but primary school children are playing them. Is this your child?

Get to know the games and find out how they operate. Also investigate game ratings, how safe they are and what private information is requested. Double check to see the games age appropriate, the material decent and the language acceptable. Enforce all the privacy rules you would normally advocate. Be aware of any social networking dangers within the games themselves. Bookmark and let the kids play the good games and set time limits for playing these. For common sense tips, go to and try Netsafe's Parents & Caregivers - Gaming

Banning social networks won't work and will only drive kids to go underground. They will find other ways to connect and maybe lie to you in the process. We need to be able to teach our children how use the Internet and social networks responsibly. Issues and challenges include excessive time spent online and more serious issues can include, grooming, cyberbullying, flaming and sexting. For more explanations of these, go to Online safety issues and Protecting self and others.

Suggestion: Become familiar with social networking sites and in particular, your child's social networking pages. How does it work, what are the privacy settings? Ensure children understand that when people have a thousand friends on Facebook, not everyone is good just because people have a happy photo in their profile. Also remember to keep them safe, by ensuring they don't give out too much private information (full name, address, phone numbers) and keep it real - know who they are communicating with.

Teach safe video chatting practices, get familiar with gaming advice for parents and teach them how to be 'game smart'.


Communicating online - also see Communicating via cellphone
Appropriate conduct, content and communication are a must when connecting with others online. Are you aware of the kind of language and messages your children send out to the world? As it has always been with teenagers, it is no surprise that young people are smart enough to let you think one thing and then act in another manner. For example, have you heard of Code 9? This is a message that users can use to alert each other when there's an adult in the room, so that made-up conversations can replace the real ones in an instant message. For more on the issues relating to communicating online, go to NetSafe's Parents & Caregivers - communicating

As mentioned before, Cyber bullying is a huge problem amongst young people. Most people who are bullied know the perpetrator and are often too scared to speak out against them. Cyber bulling can take the form of one person or a group of people harassing others. This includes, peer pressure, put downs, flaming, name calling - through to more extreme cases of threats of violence, messages of hate, bribery, psychological abuse and extortion. For more on Cyberbullying for children, parents and educators, go to

One of the worse stories on cyber bullying was when an 11 year old girl was harrassed, threatened with death threats after she posted a video message back to her online cyber bullies when she was in Stickam.

For more discussions on communicating via cellphones go to Communicating via Cellphones. For ways to protect your children from cyber bullying, go to Netsafe's Parents & Caregivers - Cyberbullying

Recommendation: Become better informed about all social networking sites and services. A fantastic place to start, is the following resource, which unpacks social networking tips for children. It looks at the positive and negative effects of social networking and walks through How to Choose a Safe Social Network For more in-depth information on on social networks, go to and NetSafe's Parents & Caregivers - Social Networking Sites

Get familiar with your child's 'chat lingo' and If your kids are using chat rooms or instant messaging tools, then get familar with some Top Chat Tips and parenting tips @ A Parent Guide to Chatting Online Share the following website with your teenager - Netsafe's resources for Young people - Communicating

Keep an eye on your child for any signs of cyber bullying and act accordingly to protect and keep them safe from any psychological harm.

Subject Author Replies Views Last Message
Any questions or comments? tessagray tessagray 0 105 Oct 13, 2010 by tessagray tessagray

Additional resources to consider

Communicating via cellphones - this module

NetSafe resources for parents

SafetyWeb resources - Social Networks

Online games