Keeping Kids Safe on Social MediaMay 21, 2018
From the time they can talk and walk, we teach our kids not to talk to strangers. But on social media, kids can’t always tell who’s a stranger. GuardChild reports that 55 percent of teens have given out personal information online, including photos and physical descriptions, to someone they don’t know. In addition to “stranger danger,” social media exposes kids to risks of cyber bullying, identity theft, and just posting inappropriate stuff that can cause problems later in life. As adults, we need to be as involved in protecting children online as we are in the physical world.
The first step is to be involved in kids’ online lives. Use parental control software to limit which social media apps they install. In return for online or device privileges, make an agreement that includes acceptable social media usage and a weekly check-in to review any new social media apps, friend requests, and privacy settings. They should also agree that you can friend them on social media accounts (in return for which, you agree to discuss concerns privately and not embarrass them online).
Here are other ways you to protect your kids on social media:
- Be a good role model about what you post, especially about your kids. As one privacy expert said recently, “Children now have an entire life history, down to the pregnancy announcement before they were born, on social media.” All that personal information helps make them easy targets for predators and identity thieves. You and your kids should also be aware how much private information photographs can give away.
- Enforce social media age limits. Most sites require users to be at least 13 years old. Use parental controls to make sure younger kids aren’t setting up accounts, and don’t let teens on social media until you’ve talked with them about safety.
- Educate kids about what is and isn’t appropriate to share. KidsHealth.org suggests having them ask themselves, “What would Grandma say?” If they’d be embarrassed to have Grandma see it, they shouldn’t post it.
- Teach kids to report cyber bullying when it happens to themselves or anyone else, and never to participate in it. Social cruelty can be deadly, and kids need to protect themselves and others.
Communication is vital, but you’ll still need to be on watch when your kids are on social media. Teens told a Washington Post interviewer that they want their parents to help them vet social media contacts and to talk with them about risks like sexting (but in a non-awkward way). But 67 percent of teens also say they know how to hide their online activities from their parents, according to GuardChild.
To paraphrase the old quote, “Eternal vigilance is the price of parenthood.”