You’ve enabled safe internet browsing and have a secure wireless connection that prevents neighbors from tapping into your home network – good job! How secure do you feel about your kids’ social media activity? Oh, they aren’t on FaceBook yet, so you don’t think you have to worry? Think again…
In most cases, we can assume that our children know more about technology than we do. Things are moving so fast and their awesome little sponge-brains soak it all up quicker than we can open a new browser tab. When it comes to social media however, we simply can’t assume. We are the parents and we need to be sure we know how to keep our kids safe.
Here are just a few broad-stroke notes to keep in mind for your budding social mavens:
We delay FaceBook use for most kids for a number of reasons – but we may allow the kids to ease into the social circuit using other programs (like Instagram). These applications are still social – so make sure your child’s profile and usage are safe.
- Make the profile ‘private’.
- Do not use first & last name as the profile name or even first name & last initial.
- Teach your child how to identify that they actually know a user before accepting an invitation to be a follower of their profile. (Some profiles have such an obscure name & identifying profile picture that it’s impossible to tell who the person on the other end might be. Explain to your child that it isn’t safe to simply accept an invitation request just because a profile is linked to other friend’s profiles.)
- Do not use the mapping feature. Explain to your child what this means – people can tell when/where your child is when they post a photo.
- Run through some simple etiquette – you want your child to be a positive contributor to the social circle. Teach them that comments typed aren’t taken the same way as they might be when delivered in person, with tone of voice and facial expressions available. Typed sarcasm = dangerous!
- Create your own Instagram profile & add your child as a follower/follow your child. Don’t smother with comments & likes of your child’s activity, but hover quietly in the background so you can keep an eye on friend’s comments.
- When their friends want to follow you – let them! You’ll be uncool soon enough – right now while they’re young & want to include you in their fun – allow it. It’s important not only to see what friends are up to – but you can also keep an eye out for any comments that juuuust might not be from another child.
- In Privacy Settings > Who can see my stuff? Make sure the ‘friends’ option is selected (or if your family has a custom list, that works also). The default setting is ‘public’ – meaning anyone can look up your child’s name & view their profile/activities.
- Watch for fake profiles. People will create a fake profile and begin friending people within a group. Show your child how to investigate a little before simply accepting a friend request.
- Tell them not to ‘check in’ everywhere, all of the time. At the very least, don’t check in while somewhere alone.
Many of the Instagram points apply here as well of course – etiquette and keeping an eye on friend’s posting or commenting habits. Obviously as parents, we want some of our posting activity to be stay within our adult circles and that’s what creating lists is for (which, your child will probably do as well ). Overall, try to be a quiet participator, at least while they’re young.
- Like it or not, they’re probably using it. Just make sure they understand that these pictures don’t really “go away” and just like with texting photos/messages – you never really know who’s on the other end of the phone, seeing what you send/type.
This may sound overbearing and that’s fine. It’s important for our kids to know we care about their safety & that we’re looking out. You can do it in a way that’s comfortable for your family – but the main theme here, is to be informed and to make sure your kids are informed, too!