Facebook 101 for parents

March 26, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Are you on Facebook yet? You probably know many people who are. But what is it, and how does it work? Anne Zehren, president of Common Sense Media, brings us up to speed.

Facebook for parents:

It's the new reality, our teens spend hours on it but do you know how it works? There's nothing like understanding how something works to lessen our anxieties. Parents can understand Facebook best by creating their own page and then see if your kids will let you "friend" them

Tips for "friending" on Facebook:

Start with your kids' age. If they're in middle school, it may be a sound policy to know what they're posting, since kids that age don't necessarily understand that they're creating a digital footprint that will long outlast the passions of the moment.

Talk to your high school-aged teens about whether or not they're comfortable letting you friend them. Many will be. This is a case of "know your kid," and it comes down to trust. But establish rules: No drug talk, no nudity, no pictures of drinking, no hate speech, no bullying, and no posting party locations-all of these lead to ruin. Most of all, remind your teens that whatever they post will be in the cyberworld forever.

Don't fill your kids' pages with your comments. As it is, simply having parents is mortifying enough at this age. Their friends don't need evidence of your existence (and you can always send them private messages).

Don't friend your kids' friends. See reasons above.

Remember: They can see what you post. If you're a friend, also be a role model. Keep your nose clean.

Choose your battles. You will see the good, the bad, and the truly unfathomable. If you don't want your kids to unfriend you, don't comment on every transgression. Keep it general. Remember, you're the parent. Even if you aren't your kids' Facebook "friend," your job is still to pass your values along to them and to help them learn how to be safe and responsible on or offline.

For more information, visit www.commonsensemedia.org

Parents and educators working together... the launch of the Common Sense Schools program:
This is a free parent media education program and first of its kind that gives schools everything necessary to help parents raise smart, responsible kids.

Why parents and educators will care:
Provides educators with resources that address parents' questions and concerns about television, movies, the Internet, gaming, and much more, giving schools the tool they need to run a media education program for parents and faculty

Educators can tailor expert information from Common Sense Media to create a program custom-made for their school community and specific grade levels. Compelling videos, printed handouts, and workshop presentations are perfect for parent education events, parent-teacher conferences, and PTA meetings. The program provides resources on more than 30 topics, including cyberbullying, virtual worlds, advertising, social networking, and the impact of media on kids' health and development.

We are already making an impact with this program, since November we have 100 Bay Area schools signed up. Nationally, we have more than 1,500 schools registered in all 50 states, 6 Canadian provinces, and 5 foreign countries including Australia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Belgium. Our goal for the year is 3,500 registered schools.

About Anne Zehren:
Anne Zehren is Mom to two boys Luke, eight years old, and Cole, four years old. When she's not busy raising her kids, Anne's other passion is raising the profile of brands. An award-winning leader, Anne joined Common Sense Media (previously serving on its Board of Directors) after years at Current TV, Teen People, Glamour, and Newsweek. Throughout her career as a media executive, Anne has created and built strong consumer brands which, when combined with innovative marketing, have experienced record-breaking growth. She believes great organizations enourage customers to help define and create the experience and products they want. "I joined Common Sense Media because I was alarmed by how much time kids spend with the media-more than twice as much time as they spend with their parents," she says. "We're constantly inspired by the hopes and concerns of passionate parents and teachers who use our information to help raise great kids."

As president of sales and marketing for Al Gore's Current TV, Anne helped create, launch, and brand the first cross-platform TV network-the first to feature viewer-created content. Under her leadership, Current experienced extraordinary growth and attracted significant advertising revenue. As the launch publisher of Teen People, Anne led one of the fastest-growing magazines and teen web sites ever. Teen People's circulation increased by more than 200 percent in its first four years, and, after three years, the magazine's readership had topped 10 million. In addition, Teen People was the first magazine to launch with a companion web site. To keep the magazine's content unique and relevant, she established a network of 12,000 ahead-of-the-curve readers called Trendspotters? who helped advise editorial and marketing decisions.

As a national authority on marketing and innovation, Anne has appeared frequently in media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Business Week, The New Yorker, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NPR, Entertainment Tonight, Extra, and E! She was a board member of the National Campaign Against Youth Violence and was named to President Clinton's Executive Advisory Board on Youth Violence. Zehren believes that young people thrive when they have a voice.