There’s no doubt that we live in a digital world and as our children become more and more tech savvy in this digital age, it’s important that parents maintain a vigilant sense of security when it comes to our children’s online presence.
While having the ability to be instantaneously connected to the world around you and to share your experiences at your fingertips has several benefits, it also opens up a whole new world of risks. From predators to cyberbullies, a child’s misuse of a social network can have serious consequences.
If your child is asking to use, or is already using social media, check out these 10 tips for keeping them safe on social media.
1. Educate yourself about social media Do you remember when the only big social media sites were Facebook and Myspace? That’s not the case anymore. As a parent, it’s important to familiarize yourself with what sites are out there and which are appropriate for your child. Here are some of the most popular social apps and sites for kids and teens:
2. Establish an age limit for your child to start using social media While you’re familiarizing yourself with what social media sites are out there, you should take a look at what the required minimum age is for each site. Most social media sites require users to be 13 or older to create an account without their parents’ permission, according to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
3. Regularly check your child’s privacy settings. Once your child has set up a social media account, it’s important to remain vigilant about keeping their privacy settings updated. Social Media sites are continually adding security settings to ensure that maximum protection is available, but oftentimes they need to be updated manually by the user.
4. Keep your child’s profile private. Most social media sites give you the option to make your account private. This means that only people who your child has friended will be able to see the content on their profile. This is an important step to take in order to keep their content private and away from people who may misuse it.
5. Make sure they’re not posting personal details, including phone numbers, address, or check-ins. Social media has become such a normal part of people’s lives that it’s not uncommon for people to share information about themselves that shouldn’t be shared. It’s important that your child understands what kinds of information shouldn’t be shared and why.
6. Don’t allow them to post photos or videos which jeopardize their safety or character. While most people post pictures and videos with the best intentions, it’s easy for things to be taken the wrong way or out of context and when everyone is online, the wrong message can have long-lasting consequences. Talk to your kids about this and make sure they understand to only post pictures and videos that present themselves and others in a positive light.
7. Make sure they choose a strong password. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5? That’s amazing! I’ve got the same combination on my luggage!”
The password scene from the 1987 comedy Spaceballs was funny back then and it’s still funny today because the implications are the same. Would you really use a password as simple as 1,2,3,4,5 to safeguard something important? No, of course you wouldn’t and you should get your kids into the habit as well.
8. Never allow them to accept friend requests from people they don’t know. This may be self-explanatory, but there are a lot of people out there who use social media to stalk people and steal their information to cause harm. It’s always best practice to only accept friend requests from people your child knows such as their friends and family.
9. Set guidelines/rules for their social media use. Establishing rules or guidelines from the start is a great way to instill positive habits for your child on social media. However, you don’t want to set up rules which are too strict or else you run the risk of your child actively and secretly trying to break them. Try to make rules that empower your child to make good decisions on their own.
10. Keep an open dialogue with your child. You can’t monitor your child’s social media activity 24/7, so maintaining a strong line of communication is important to understand what’s going on with your child online. Ask them to inform you whenever they receive messages or invites from strangers. Talk to them about the consequences of misusing social media. Ask them to tell you if someone is teasing or harassing them as those could be signs of cyber-bullying.