April 01, 2009 —

One of the reasons we took our fight against cough medicine online was to combat how young kids and teens learn about the abuse from message boards and social networks. We wanted to bring an informed message about dangers and risks to the same space since kids turn to for dubious information about how to abuse. It falls on us as parents and guardians to protect our kids online and to make sure they know about the consequences of cough medicine abuse.

Some of the best tools we have at our disposal are the very same networks that teens are using. Earlier this year, we were pleased to be a part of the launch of the Stop Medicine Abuse fan page on Facebook. Through the fan page, you can share your own advice, watch video clips, and help us use Facebook to raise awareness among other parents.

In fact, there has been a lot of talk lately about Facebook and parenting, particularly when it comes to the question of "friending" your kids and monitoring what they do online. Social media has become an integral part of teenage life and every family with Internet access should establish guidelines and expectations. Here is a head-start to help you start this process and have a solid, two-way talk with your kids.

Visit the sites

If you haven't already, take a look at the social networking sites your teens may be using. Both MySpace and Facebook have excellent safety guides and FAQs about their services, and you might consider signing up for an account yourself. By familiarizing yourself with these sites, you will have a better idea about why people use them.

Set Boundaries

If your children are old enough to use the Internet, chances are that they and their friends already know about web sites like MySpace and Facebook. Even if your teen doesn't yet have an account on one of these sites, it is a good idea to sit down and discuss appropriate online behavior. Many rules about online activities are true for all sites, not just social networks.

Compromise

As Lisa Belkin notes in her New York Times column, some parents suggest that their teens friend them on Facebook or MySpace, while other parents make sure they have their teens' account passwords. Both solutions have pros and cons, but ultimately it is up to you and your family to decide together how to balance responsibility and safety.

Sites like Facebook and MySpace are great tools to connect with family and friends, but it is important that we educate our teens about the risks of these networks. It's unfortunate that some teens are using social networks to share information about cough medicine abuse, but by educating our teens, we can better protect them and prepare them to make smart decisions about their personal health.

Are you and your family active on Facebook? Join the conversation and share your tips with other parents about protecting your family online at the Stop Medicine Abuse fan page. We look forward to reading your ideas!