[Yesterday, I told you about a Sunday School lesson I did at a church. One of the topics, I talked about sexting and its dangers. Today, I’m going to cover a little more of what I discussed in that Sunday School lesson. More specificially, I’m gonna talk about online social networks. I’ve been quoted in Fox News, MSNBC News and appeared on television and radio talking about this topic. So, I have a few things I want to share with you.

A lot of the parents in attendance were curious about online social networks and how their kids can stay safe using them. Everyone has heard of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter but most parents didn’t know enough about them to protect their kids. So, a basic definition of an online social network is an online location where a user can create a profile and build a person network that connects him or her to other users. Online social networks are wonderful and have revolutionized the way the world uses the internet and communicates. But with the good also comes some bad. There are lots of way kids (and adults!) can get into trouble on online social networks. Here are three big problems I advised parents to be aware of.

1. Cyber-Bullying
This is a huge, hot-button topic today. Social media like Facebook and Twitter have brought about the rise of young people taunting, threatening, and bullying their peers online. A lot of this is done without parents or school officials ever knowing about it. We have all heard the news stories of young people taking their lives or being attacked because what was said online. This has got to stop. A lot of schools, school districts and states are taking a zero-tolerance policy against cyber-bullying and putting laws into place for punishment. This is a serious issue. So, please kids, just don’t do it.

2. Online Ranting
Online ranting is different than cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying is threatening another person but online ranting is more like “hating” on someone. So instead of a kid saying they want to beat up someone online (which is cyber-bullying), online ranting is a student posting online that they hate their chemistry teacher and thinks their test was graded unfairly. Ranting doesn’t involve threats of violence or anything like that. But it does ususally involve venting feelings of anger or dissatisfaction about a person. While some may think this is not as bad as cyber-bullying, I urge you to think again. Professional athletes has lost contracts, employees have gotten fired, job applicants were never even hired, and students have lost scholarships to universities and had their admission revoked all because of online ranting. So, if you feel mad about something or someone, posting it online is not the way to work out your feelings.

3. Posting Inappropiate Pictures of Yourself
With the popularity of online social networks, also comes the rise of inappropiate material. A lot of it being inappropiate pictures posted online. Kids today are so jaded because every other day, some celebrity is releasing a sex tape or has nude photos “leaked” online. It seems like it’s no big deal to take pictures in like manner and post online. But, doing this can be very detrimental to the child, their school career and future employment opportunities. Many schools are disciplining students for inappropiate online behavior and most colleges, universities and employers check the online behaviour of potential applicants. Posting lewd pictures of yourself and others may seem funny at first, but not so much when you can’t get into the college of your choice or land the job you want. So, parents have to be diligent about monitoring their kids to make sure their kids (and their friends) have not posted inappropiate videos, photos, etc. of themselves online.

It’s not easy being a parent in this fast-paced, high-tech world. There’s a lot out there that you have to protect your kids from. But just the fact that you’re reading this post shows that you’re on the right track.