Social Media Safety for Kids
The Internet and social media are a digital life at our children’s fingertips. In fact, surveys show that 90% of kids and teens ages 13-17 use social media, and roughly 50% are between the ages of 10-12. Let’s be serious though, kids as young as two years old are becoming wizards on computers and handheld devices.
Everything is just one click away and with that comes the good and the bad. With so many social media platforms and the ever-increasing nature of smart devices, the opportunities for children to surf and navigate these systems are endless.
Rather than spending time in this Tech Corner discussing the good and the bad, or which sites are better than others, it’s more prudent to help identify key topics at the core of social media usage, regardless of the platform. As much as we want to keep our children off social media 100%, it’s nearly impossible. They’re going to find ways to access it, so let’s educate ourselves, and them, on expectations and risks.
Have a regular discussion with your kids about social media, find out what their friends are using and what they’re sharing online. It’s not all about social media websites; even online gaming platforms have social media components.
Help educate your kids on the risks of social media: strangers having access to their personal information; learning to detect stranger behavior and report it to you; having a basic understanding of not clicking on unknown links; and not accepting or “friending” people online that are strangers.
Some social media platforms are better for children than others in terms of the content they share or their overall demographic of users. Ensure that your kids are not downloading apps that are not age appropriate. The only thing stopping a child from accessing these not-suitable social media platforms is the age they enter when signing up. Keep an eye on what they are regularly using and restrict those that are not suitable.
Rules and Expectations
Set rules and expectations of acceptable social media behavior or online usage. Educate yourself as a parent on these apps and the type of data and information being shared on them. Set rules and restrictions for children and what is expected of them with the consequences when those rules are broken. Don’t give out your personal information online, even when chatting with friends in an online game.
Help them set appropriate privacy settings that will block unknown and unwanted strangers online. Help make sure their information is as private as possible and that they aren’t inviting or sharing data with unknown individuals. Many social platforms have “opt-out” options to help increase security and reduce search ability online.
Keep up with where your kids are going online, and what social media platforms they are on. Make it a task to regularly review their social accounts and ask them to show you who they’ve connected with and who they are talking to regularly. Of course, kids will be reluctant on this, but part of educating them on social media is them understanding that they will be monitored and reviewed for their activity ensuring it matches the rules and expectations that have been set.
Most importantly, this Tech Corner is not meant to be an article on parenting, rather an attempt to open our eyes a bit more on social media and what children are using and sharing online. Social media is exciting and can be fun, connecting with friends, sharing information, etc. Let’s just make sure to take some time and zoom in a bit on what they are doing, sharing, and with whom.