Safe social media practices are important for anyone, but they can be especially important for children and teenagers, who are often victims of cyberbullying. You may not even want your kids to be on social media, but that’s difficult to regulate when they often have access to computers and other devices at school or friends’ houses. Although it’s scary to think about what your children might be sharing on social media, if you set a good example and check up on their accounts, you’ll have much less to worry about. Here are some safe practices to make sure you tell your kids about:
Use a Strong Password
The last thing anyone wants is for their account to be hacked, but children and teenagers are much more likely to set a silly and easily-hacked password or to share their password with friends. Make sure you stress the importance of using a strong (and private) password so that the only person who can post something on your child’s account is your child.
Only Become Friends with Friends
At some point a stranger will request to friend your child on social media. It might just be a friend-of-a-friend situation, but it could also be that a total stranger tries to friend-request your child. Once your child accepts that friend request, all their information is visible to whoever that person is. Although social media may sometimes seem like a popularity contest, make sure your kids know the dangers involved in adding strangers. Just as you wouldn’t tell everything about yourself to a stranger in real life, you don’t want to do that over the internet either.
There Are Some Things You Should Keep to Yourself
It’s important to make sure your children are aware of the possible short- and long-term consequences that could come with sharing information about themselves on social media. Foursquare makes it easy to share our location with friends and thus keep them in-the-know about what we’re up to during the day. But when your kids share their location, they make it easy for potential stalkers or kidnappers to find them. Long-term, things your children post on social media now could work against them when they eventually apply to college, interview for a job, etc.
Keep Your Network Secure
Any device you or your kids are using should have Virtual Private Network (VPN), installed on it. When you access social media sites or any other website, your computer shares packets of information (cookies) that tell the site lots of information—your passwords, location and even information that isn’t relevant to that site. A VPN will both provide a fake IP address (hiding your true location) and send your information through an encrypted tunnel (hiding everything from the potentially prying eyes of hackers), meaning you’re a lot safer as long as you’re using one.
Take Some Time Off
You don’t need to take serious time off social media; we’re not talking months here. But in a world where we often carry smartphones and have constant access to social media, it can be useful to unplug sometimes, even if it’s just for a meal or for an outing. With your kids, limiting their time online, and especially on social media, can help limit the effects of cyberbullying, help them sleep and help them do better in school.
What other ways do you regulate your children’s online activity? Parents, feel free to share your other tips in the Comments section below!