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Your Children and Social Media: A Parent’s Guide

Date: Thursday, May 19, 2011, 4:21 am

By: Tonya Pendleton,


In this Oct. 2010 photo, M-Bone of Cali Swag District performs during rehearsals for the BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta. (AP)

This week, the tragic death of 22-year-old Montae “M-Bone” Talbert shocked the hip-hop world. A Southern California-based rapper and dancer, Talbert was a member of the group Cali Swag District, who were best known for their song, “Teach Me How To Dougie,” which referenced rapper Doug E. Fresh’s famous dance routines. Talbert was shot and killed Sunday in front of a liquor store in Inglewood, California by an unidentified shooter who drove off.

Two of the surviving group members, C-Smoove and Jay Are, say they are grieving, but have no idea what may have motivated the unprovoked shooting. Talbert’s live-in girlfriend, however, says that he may have been targeted as the result of a Twitter beef with someone from the neighborhood jealous of his success. She says they reported the threatening tweets to police.

If you have teenage or young adult children, Talbert’s death is something you should pay attention to. Why? Social media has a great deal of positive advantages, among them keeping up with friends and relatives, as well as allowing young people a place to express themselves and socialize. However, its use can turn ugly – and potentially deadly – as people can be much more combative online than they may normally be in person. Social media can also ignite a public “ganging up” on one person, who might then be ostracized or bullied at school and at home.

That said, banning your child from social media sites may not be the answer. They can still be bullied in absentia, and, more importantly, if they are online, you can better monitor their friends, their conversations and their activities. (Keep in mind, many teens login to social media via their mobile phones, so if you are totally against their use of social media, you can keep their phone service basic by not allowing web browsing.)

If you see any pattern of bullying or abuse on any web site or if actual threats are made, take those things seriously, and alert your child’s school, and if necessary, police. Online bullying and threats are sometimes subject to the same punishments as in-person actions, depending on your school and state.

Here’s a guide to the most popular social networks and how to take caution if your child uses them.


Facebook is obviously the leader of the social media pack, with over 500 million (and nearing 600 million) users. The basis of Facebook – to create personal web pages and connect with your peers has expanded into things like sparking revolutions, as the former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak can attest. Facebook is probably the most commonly logged-into social media site for teens. It’s great when it’s celebrating milestones like graduations and birthdays, but bad when it turns into online beefing and harassment.

WHAT PARENTS NEED TO KNOW: Facebook is for children 13 and up, but there is no safeguard for age; kids can simply use a different birth year to sign up. It’s a good idea to let your children have a page on FB, as long as you’re their friend and can see who’s posting, what pictures are being uploaded and what conversations are happening. Have them also “friend” other family members willing to swoop in and question inappropriate comments and pictures. And make sure your teenagers, especially female teens, set their pages to private so that only those who they approve can see their page. Your daughter may look cute in a bikini, but do you want your coworkers ogling her?


Twitter is a microblogging site that allows users to send out tweets that are capped at 140 characters. It …..

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