Social media is everywhere. Facebook alone has over two billion users. And the bottom line is that social media is how people in the world share their lives. Is that what you want your children to do? Share their lives with everybody in the world? Black people have a saying about this. Its called “putting your business in the street.”
Children and social media are a dangerous mix. Every year thousands of children and teens are contacted by sexual predators, marketers and information collectors of all sorts. These people are an extreme danger not only to your children but your household as well. Children can unwittingly give away your most sensitive information. Over sharing is a common problem on social media websites. And children can fall for social engineering where they are manipulated into revealing sensitive information. This information can seem harmless like “where do you go to school?” Or, “what time does mommy go to work?” To a child these questions may seem harmless but you can see how a predator can use this information. Other information revealed by a child or teen online add to the exploding rate of child identity theft.
How do you protect your child on social media?
Black parents are warned that your child’s use of a computer, smartphone or tablet is not harmless. Especially if this activity is happening without your knowledge of supervision. Some parents think that children means your 8 and 10 year olds. But teens are especially vulnerable on social media. Teens are more secretive, especially black teens. So parents need to work harder to implement and enforce rules for their social media use.
- Learn about social media – As a parent of a child or teen you need to take the time to research and learn about the different social networks children and teens are using. Plenty of parents use Facebook or Twitter. But there are many other sites your child may be using you don’t know about. These include Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, YouTube, and Tumblr. Two other websites that are about secrecy and anonymity are called Secret and Whisper. You can find the most popular teen social media websites here. Familiarize yourself with what teens are doing online and on social media. If you have a teen in the house you need to keep up with whats happening or be surprised by it. Doing the research will give you a better understanding of how each service works. You may wish to create your own profile on these sites and apps to understand how they work and what is happening. Monitoring your children for their own safety is a tough parenting skill. Spying can cause teens to withdraw further and become more secretive. Here is some information about talking to teens about social media.
- Establish some firm rules for social media use – First set an age for social media use. Young children are enticed by children’s television programs to go online to connect with characters. You should be aware that this is often a marketing play to sell toys or children’s food products or gather information. As such they should be closely supervised. Let your child know when they can use the computer and what age they can begin using social media websites. Most social media sites require users to be at least 13 years old to create an account. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) prevents companies from collecting personal information about children under the age of 13 without their parents’ permission. Set times and time limits for your child’s social media use. Parents should go online with their young children and teach them social media safety early. Remember, the same rules apply online as on the sidewalk. Don’t talk to strangers.
- Keep the computer in a pubic area of your home – As I said before, teens are notoriously secretive. Your teenager may be re-treating to the privacy of their bedroom to go online. Its not uncommon but it is also something to worry about. For younger children its a good idea to have the computer in a location where you can monitor your child’s activity. As for your teenager, this is where parenting gets tricky. Make sure your teenager understands the dangers of being on social media. Ask questions about what they are doing and who they are in contact with. Spying is not always the best idea but education can certainly give you some peace of mind. “Check out Teens Guide to Social Media.” Here a re few things you can do to protect your teen.
- A key question to ask is if they are in touch with someone they have not met personally, in person? This could be a danger sign.
- Make sure your teen understands that sexual predators are online. Make sure they know not to share personal information or pictures with people they don’t know.
- Make sure your teen understands the concept of “over sharing”.
- Make sure they know to never “friend the friend of a friend.”
- Sexting is strictly forbidden.
- Establish trust and honesty. Never make your teen feel he or she can’t come to you with problems and ask for advice. Finally, perform regular checks of your child’s privacy settings. Make sure your child’s social media account is as secure as possible. Block advertisers, and name and profile searches. Restrict who can see your child’s pictures, personal information and how to contact them.
Now you know.