Safe Social Networking | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Safe Social Networking

Renee Walker came to the Facebook Roadshow at Clinton High School Oct. 6 to find out what to do when one person impersonates another on the popular social-networking website.

"My daughter—I wasn't aware that she was on Facebook—she was using another young lady's Facebook account," Walker said.

"Then it got to the point where the young lady was pretending to be her on Facebook, and some bad things happened. That's when I found out."

Walker said she learned how to report impersonation on Facebook—as well as the 13-years-and-above age requirement, meaning her 12-year-old daughter will have to wait a while before she can have her own account.

The Facebook Roadshow offered tips on safe social networking for parents, teachers and students. The Mississippi attorney general's office sponsored the event along with the state Department of Education.

Brooke Oberwetter, associate manager of policy communications at Facebook, told parents and a handful of students at the event how to change their page's privacy settings, report when someone is impersonating them on Facebook and block someone who is harassing them. Oberwetter recommended that people review their privacy settings each month and take a moment to adjust which group of friends they want to see content each time they post something.

Attorney General Jim Hood said teens today have to deal with an onslaught of electronic technology.

"This is where our young people are hanging out instead of the pool or the pier," Hood said.

Oberwetter said one of the best ways parents can start a conversation with their teens about safety on Facebook is by asking them to help set up a Facebook page. As parents ask questions about changing privacy settings and posting status updates, they can talk to their children about what they are sharing online.

Hood and Oberwetter took questions from the audience on topics such as what parents should do if they find out their child has two pages—one to friend them on and one for everything else—and what the relationship status "it's complicated" means.

Oberwetter said having two Facebook pages is a violation of the site's terms of use, and if Facebook finds out, it will delete both pages. As for "it's complicated," the answer is, well, complicated, but Oberwetter said most people select it when they do not want to be single, but don't want to commit to the "in a relationship" status. She added that the "it's complicated" option declined in popularity as the site transitioned from a social-networking tool for college and high-school students to one that more adults use.

When problems online escalate into threats or harassment, Hood said people should call law enforcement. Parents and teachers can watch for signs of "cyber bullying," because problems online often translate into problems in real life.

A new Mississippi law went into effect in July to make impersonating someone else online a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine or imprisonment. Fake Facebook accounts can damage a person's reputation, and now people can report them to law enforcement. Hood sponsored the law and said in a statement that it will help deter cyber bullying.

Rachel Carlton, 16, is a junior at Jackson Preparatory School and a member of the Attorney General's Youth Advisory Council. Hood said he formed the council, which will review an upcoming Facebook safety guide, to help his office reach youth. The attorney general's Facebook safety guide should be available within the next couple of weeks.

Rachel's mother, Virginia Carlton, is a judge on the Mississippi Court of Appeals. Virginia Carlton thinks parents learned more from the event than teens who are already on Facebook. "Rachel's very tech savvy on the social media and the computer," she said. "I'm the one that's learning from her."

Carlton said she trusts her children, but wants to get on Facebook so she can be more aware of what they're doing. "I have to get up to speed," she said. "Since I'm not on Facebook, I cannot tell you what they're doing online. I have to rely a lot on what they tell me."

Stay Safe Online
To see video of the event, visit the Mississippi Attorney General Office's Facebook page and click on Ustream Live. For more Facebook safety tips, visit

For more information and resources to combat cyber crime, visit and click on the "Families" link.

To report cyber bullying, harassment, threats or online impersonation, take photos or screen shots of the evidence and call the Cyber Crime Unit of the attorney general's office at 601-576-4281. If your child is being bullied online, also contact your child's school.

Facebook representative Brooke Oberwetter was in Mississippi Oct. 6 to talk about safe social networking.
Elizabeth Waibel

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