September 25, 2018

Staying Safe on Social Media

Staying Safe on Social Media

We live in a world where increasingly more time is spent on social media – culture itself is largely defined more and more by what is on social media.  Because it is such a driver of culture and what is “cool”, our youth spends a disproportionate amount of their time on these platforms. Recent stats suggest that 81% (and growing) of kids 12-17 have at least 1 social media profile, and most have several.

With social media defining what is “cool”, some kids may feel pressured to over-share, interact where they shouldn’t, and largely cultivate their persona to match what is expected instead of being happy with who they are.

The platforms do a lot in terms of safety but they can’t foresee or intervene in every situation, it’s up to us as a community at large to take safety precautions for our youth, here are a few recommendations from  

Social Profiles and Privacy Settings

Every social site begins with creating a profile. Kids are getting more savvy about what they put into a profile, but it remains the parent’s job to review it, as it is a key point regarding online safety for your kids. In terms of a profile, less is more. Nobody online needs to know where a child goes to school, relationship status, names of pets past or present, home or email addresses, phone numbers or any other identifying information.

Parents can coach their kids about how nefarious individuals use identifying information to gain access to personal accounts, to spam, impersonate them or otherwise cause harm. Help them set their privacy settings to strictly limit who can see their social media activities and view their profile. Friends of friends, for example, don’t need to see their posts and photos. Periodically review their privacy settings to ensure that nothing has changed.

The Hazards of Over-Sharing

The same is true regarding “over-sharing.” It may be seemingly innocuous to post details about being home alone, but such information could put a child at risk. The same is true about telling online friends about vacations, which is essentially telling the world when your home will be unoccupied. Kids may not understand that a simple post asking for a phone number may be from a malevolent source. Parents can help by discussing various scenarios with their kids, so that they understand what kinds of information should not be shared via social media.

What Goes Online, Stays Online

Children often get drawn into peer drama, blowing up the social media sphere with arguments and snarky commentary. Bully behavior may crop up, leaving kids feeling vulnerable and alone. Kids may be quick to take a video and post it online without thinking through the consequences. Parents can do a lot to explain that what goes online, stays online. Forever. Teach kids to take a breath before posting, and to never immediately take to Facebook or Twitter in the heat of anger. Parents should be firm that comments, actions and online behavior should be governed with the same courtesy and respect as kids would convey with people they meet face-to-face.

Mobile Safety and Social Media

Internet safety for kids includes mobile. More children have access to the Internet from their phones, tablets and handheld gadgets than ever before. Mobile access also means that kids have the ability to very quickly move to new social media sites before you’ll ever see the evidence on the family computer. Setting firm rules about joining new sites is key, as is keeping communication open. Ask why your child may feel the need to jump into a new social media site, whether it is to get away from bullying behavior or simply to be a part of a newer, kinder, gentler online community.

Top Job for Parents

Internet safety for kids seems like a daunting task in the face of the ubiquity social media, but it’s certainly necessary and important. Model for your kids the online behavior you expect of them and insist upon friending and following them on their social sites. Set up parental controls and be sure to stay on top of new social sites and determine if they are appropriate for your kids. Because mobile access increases your child’s overall exposure to social media, it may be helpful to invest in mobile security software with parental control tools to help monitor your child’s mobile activity. Above all, make Internet safety a top family priority.