8 Tips to Keep Your Children Safe on Social Networks
By Melissa Pagaen
Posts, comments, videos, chats, tweets, texts have become a regular part of children’s lives these days.
And with them logging on to the Internet from just everywhere – laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other devices – many parents find it hard to know what their kids are really up to.
While social media can indeed provide an avenue of self-expression for children, it can also pose a dangerous threat to them. Without the proper guidance from their parents, social networking can easily get them into trouble.
Parents have the responsibility of keeping their kids away from danger. Here are a few suggestions on how to make sure your kids are using social media sites appropriately.
Make sure your child follows age limits on the site.
Some social networking sites contain information or images not suitable for very young children. Most sites only allow users 13 years old and over. If your children are younger than 13, do not let them sign up.
Have a profile yourself.
What better way to know what your kid is up to than joining the same online community yourself? By joining, you get to “friend” you child and monitor his or her online activity. See what your child can and can’t do. Just remember not to embarrass your kid by posting comments his or her friends can see.
Make them set their privacy settings.
Have your child set his profile’s privacy settings, limiting access to those who can view his profile. Let him know it is imperative to limit friends to people he actually know, and not strangers. An individual with an open profile will most likely becomes a target.
Set limits to what they share.
Do not allow your child to use his full name. Instead, make him create a safe screen name that won’t reveal any important and personal information. Help your child understand what information should stay private. Explain why it is not safe to post or include his address, telephone number, or financial status on his profile.
Remind them of the consequences of their actions.
As parents, help your kids from doing something they’ll later regret by teaching them to think twice before posting photos, videos, status updates. Remind them that they should only post things they’re comfortable with others seeing. Also tell them that once they put something on the net, it can be automatically seen by their community.
Talk to your kids about it.
Ask them what they do and how things are done online. Ask them who they’re in touch with and review them. Also encourage them to communicate their suspicions about someone. If you think you don’t trust certain “friends” of his, you can do extra research and find people on the net through other helpful sites.
Encourage online etiquette.
Teach your children to use appropriate language and to be courteous online. Although communicating online may be fast and impersonal, encourage your child to use the words “please” and “thank you.” This will keep him or her away from fights and will say a lot about your family. Using all caps and long rows of exclamation points is a no-no.
Educate them about cyberbullying.
Caution you children against cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is defined as deliberately using social media sites or other digital media to embarrass, damage, or communicate hostile information about another person. If your kid think he or she’s cyberbullied, they should immediately tell you, their teacher, or another adult they trust. In the same way, you should ensure that your child does not cyberbully other children.
Do you have other suggestions on protecting your child on social networks? Share them here!
Ms. Jensen is a leading advocate for families and children and was the founder and president of ACES, The Association for Children for Enforcement of Support.
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