Social media sites have become a global information network that undoubtedly has many benefits. However, with this increased exposure, it is vital to make sure kids remain safe online. Educating children on the best way to use websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr may protect them from potential problems. Chat rooms, blogs, emails and instant messaging are other factors where parents need to carefully instruct kids on safety measures. It is essential to inform students not to post information about themselves online that they wouldn't want the whole world to know. Kids need to realize that many people may see their posts, including teachers, employers, college admission officers and even the police. Most dangerous of all are strangers who may lure kids into revealing personal information, steal their identity and hack their computer.
Here are some tips for remaining safe online:
- Join sites where one can keep their information private and restrict access based on approval.
- Be extremely careful about posting personal information such as your child's full name, address, phone number, social security number or any bank or credit card information. Parents may also want to monitor what their kids post regarding the name of their school, club or sports team, as sometimes people can be identified using this information
- Review children's screen names and have them come up with something that is not their name which can be used to identify them
- Make sure that only information you are comfortable revealing is posted. Many have access to this information, including a future employer. Once something is online, it stays online. Even when something is deleted, it may stay on another's computer.
- Try not to let your child post their photo online. Pictures can be altered and used in unacceptable ways
- Inform your kids not to make friends with strangers online. People may not always be honest about who they really are. Do research on new people!
- Kids should know to tell an adult right away if there is any suspicious activity online
There are definite security risks and these precautions should be taken. Kids often don't realize that others may see what they just want their friends to see and they must be alerted to potential dangers. Teach kids how to use privacy settings, how to create strong passwords and to be skeptical about things they read online. Ask children questions about what they are doing online and actually check if they are young and you are able. Take a look at any profile page they have created and teach them how to make their pages private. Also, try and see what other kids are posting as cyberbullying is a problem that must be stopped.
Children are especially susceptible to the dangers that social networking sites may present. Some kids may change their ages to join age-restricted sites. Children need to be taught about Internet safety and know how to monitor their online use. Children need this education to make them safe social media users.
Follow Jeannie Borin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeannieborin