We live in a new era, a social media era. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter,
This is the single most terrifying aspect of social media for parents with children coming to the age of wanting social media accounts. Children, so blissfully unaware of the dangers lurking out there on the internet, share intimate details publicly online can leave them vulnerable to predators who have honed their “skills” over time and know exactly what to look for. But, rather than denying our children the chance to interact with friends over social media outside of school, there are ways to keep them safe. Here, I will discuss some simple ways to ensure your children remain safe in this new and complex world.
MAKING THE RULES
Firstly, the biggest thing parents need to understand and to stress upon their children is that having social media accounts is a privilege, not a right. Remember, YOU are the parent.
PASSWORDS: This is the most important rule. You set the password with your child and inform them that the password is not to be changed under any circumstance by them. Set up a recovery email and/or phone number that belongs to YOU so that you will receive notification if the password has been reset.
If you find yourself locked out of the account due to a password change, request a password reset to the email you have access to and lock them out of the account.
PROFILE PICTURE: It is best that the profile picture (which is public) be a generic picture, such as of a pet or a favourite image. This is the picture that is visible to everyone, including predators, so best not to show an image of child.
IMAGES UPLOADED: While teenagers may think that a mirror selfie in a bikini or posing with friends in micro shorts and bikini tops
Similarly, images of school uniforms can lead to a predator knowing where they attend school and can be very dangerous. Review every photo your child uploads and if you don’t approve of it, remove it.
PRIVACY SETTINGS: Facebook and Instagram have a whole bunch of privacy settings that need to be reviewed regularly to ensure your child is safe. On Facebook, features may default to the “public” setting after updates, so you need to make sure you review each aspect of the privacy settings and timeline and tagging settings to see who can see your child’s site, posts
Instagram is much the same, ensure that your child’s account is set to a “private” account and educate them in relation to unsolicited emails they may receive. The best rule to apply here is if you don’t know them, delete the message.
HASHTAGS: While most of us think
FACEBOOK/INSTAGRAM “TAGGING”: Another feature you want to be careful about is “Tagging.” This is when friends ‘tag’ someone they know in an image on their page. Seems innocent enough, however, if that friend has 1500 people on their Facebook friends list, this is 1500 people you don’t know who can see the image of your child. Facebook does have a feature in which you have to approve tags before they appear on your timeline, which is a feature you should enable.
ACCEPTING FRIENDS ONLY: Many teenagers who use social media think that having a large friends list makes them appear popular, so the more people who add them the better. When in reality, your child cannot personally be friends with 1500 or 2000 people, so they accept requests from people unknown to them or you. A simple rule to apply here is if your child does not personally know them, do not add them.
If you have Facebook set to allow friend requests from “friends of friends” you can imagine how many people your child can suddenly have on their Facebook page, seeing their every move and every photo. This opens the door to people you just don’t want speaking to your child. Would you allow your daughter or son to speak to random adults at all hours of the day or night without your supervision? Then why would you allow it online?
LOCATION SETTINGS: This is a big one. Facebook has a feature called “checking in” where you can tag yourself at your favourite location and share it on your page. While this is fine if you are out in a public space, many teenagers and indeed adults use this feature to tag themselves at home. What this does is pinpoints them on a map and advertises their home address for everyone and anyone to see. It is fairly self-explanatory why this is extremely dangerous and something you should educate your child on.
Similarly, applications such as Snapchat have a location feature, where you can accurately locate the other person ‘snapping’ you through the app. However, the location settings default to ‘Ghosting’ meaning your location is not automatically displayed. It is best to check to see if your child has turned this feature on and if so, turn it off and educate them to the dangers of sharing your location online.
Lastly, teach your children about stranger danger. Tell them that there are people out there who target children and it’s best to not speak to anyone unless you know them. While you don’t need to be specific about why predators are targeting children, if they know these people are bad they will be less inclined to want to speak to them.
Most of all, stay involved. While it may seem like a lot of effort, constantly checking your child’s social media accounts, privacy settings, messages and friends list is the best way to ensure their safety and security online.
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