Social media is here to stay. Kids are joining social networks at earlier ages and often do so without their parent’s permission. Education and communication is vital when learning to explore social media. Studies have shown that forbidding social media entirely can lead to it’s misuse. Use these 8 tips to have a conversation with your kids about being safe, positive and responsible on social networking sites.
1. Get Involved with Social Networking Yourself
Teach your children about digital citizenship and become a good digital role model yourself! Make an effort to learn about the sites and devices your kids are constantly using. If you explore together while pointing out how other users behave, it will improve communication and help you understand the attraction and positive aspects of social media. This way, your kids won’t feel as if you have no idea what you’re talking about, and hey–you might actually like it! It also demonstrates your support and that you can still be trusted and have fun with them.
2. Set Rules
Pulling the plug on your child’s favorite social site is like pulling the plug on his or her social life. This can shut down communication and send kids “underground.” Have a conversation with your kids about responsible social media use, appropriate postings, time spent online, cyberbullying, etc. Although rules will vary household to household and will depend on your child’s age, one of the most important things is being consistent with these rules. If you set clear guidelines in the beginning, things will go much smoother in the future.
3. Make Sure Your Kids Know How to Control Their Social Network Privacy Settings
Have them log into their Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, etc. and check their privacy settings. A good way to stay safe online is by using these services is to set proﬁles to private – this way, only people you invite can see what you post. When you set up an account, everything is automatically public, so kids may not even know their information can be seen by people they are not connected to. Users can manually edit their privacy settings by clicking on the settings tab on most social media networks.
4. Educate Your Kids About the Dangers of Going Public with Personal Information
Advise them to be careful with personal information. The “less is more” rule applies here. Warn kids of the danger posed by constantly advertising their exact physical location, future plans, etc. in social media posts. Also, the lack of physical interaction online provides a false sense of security. This leads to people posting things for their friends to read, forgetting that others can also see it. This can put personal safety at risk.
5. “Spring Clean” That Friends List
According to Edison Research, users ages 12-17 have an average of 396 Facebook friends. If your kids are friends with a high number of people, suggest they spend some time cleaning out that list. It’s important not to make information vulnerable to people who you have never met before or don’t know well in real life. Make them aware of the “decline” and “defriend” button — they never should connect with anyone on social media that they don’t know.
6. Advise Them to Create Strong Passwords
If your child’s password for every social site is your family’s dog’s name (or something else obvious), and they are posting pictures of the dog everyday saying “Look how cute Buddy is!” Guess what hacker’s first guess would be? A password is the key to protecting one’s identity. Advise kids to create strong, alphanumeric passwords that differ for every site.
7. Explain to Them that Social Media has Longevity
Once you post something online, whether it is through Facebook, Snapchat, Vine, or Tumblr, it’s there….forever. Explain the meaning and implications of their permanent digital footprint. Even if you press the delete button, the Internet does not forget. Remind kids to think before they post or press send. Social media is very powerful, and with great power comes great responsibility…right Spiderman? Educate kids on how to use these great tools safely and responsibly.
8. Install Strong Security Software
The latest security threats are targeting social networks. One common attempt is through a Twitter message such as, “Hey somebody is posting really bad pictures of you” with a shortened URL link that takes you to what seems like a legit website. Don’t believe them. It’s actually a virus. Advise your kids to only open emails they are expecting and to avoid pop-up ads, banners, or anything asking for personal information. Make sure your devices are equipped with strong security software to block malicious links from being opened.
Social media can be a great tool when used responsibly and safely. To protect your children from inappropriate content and people, make sure you take an active role in their online life and your devices are equipped to protect personal information.
Author Bio: Shannon McCarty-Caplan, Consumer Security Advocate at Trend Micro. Shannon has over a dozen years of experience helping consumers and businesses find the security solutions they need to protect their families, privacy and critical data. Shannon is a news junkie with a BA in Journalism from the University of Arizona.