Today’s kids and teens are among the first generations of young people who don’t know about life before the rise of social media. They are constantly trying to get more followers for Instagram or checking how many RT's they get every couple minutes.
Despite the fact that social media has been a part of their lives since they were old enough to use a smartphone, however, parents shouldn’t assume that they know how to stay safe online.
Here are some tips to teach your children about social media to make sure they stay safe and secure.
1. The Internet is Forever
About 90% of teens have used some sort of social media at this point, which means that there is a huge social media community for kids. It’s important that they know that anything they post – including pictures, videos, statuses, and messages–can come back to haunt them. Many kids and adolescents think that deleting an embarrassing picture means it’s gone forever; you should show them how caching and screenshots can mean even short-lived posts can have long-term consequences.
2. Set Time Limits
It’s rare to find kids who will set their own time limits regarding their social media usage, which is probably why 55% of parents limit the amount of time their teenagers are allowed to be online. However, it’s important to teach your kids why they should limit their social media time – mainly that it keeps them from developing real-world relationships and from getting involved in other, more productive activities.
3. Be Nice
Over half of adolescents and teens have been victims of cyberbullying, and about the same number have engaged in it. This means that there is a good chance that your kid at least knows someone involved in getting bullied or bullying others online. Make it clear to your children that bullying is unacceptable, whether on social media or in real life, and encourage them to tell you if they’re victims of it.
4. There’s No Such Thing as Anonymity
Many social media platforms like Reddit allow users to post and interact with each other under anonymous usernames. However, like the 50% of Internet users concerned about how much of their personal information is available online, you should encourage your kids to exercise caution. Posts can be traced back to their real creators, and location trackers make posting from smartphones more revealing than kids may think.
5. Stay Private
In a similar vein, you should remind your kids that anything they post can be used against them. If they put up personal information like travel dates, pictures that show their school or the front of their house, phone numbers, and other information, people can take advantage. For instance, 11% of Internet users have had their personal information like their Social Security Number or banking information stolen online.
6. Parents Are Involved
33% of parents have concerns or questions about their child’s Internet use. The good news is, you can just ask! It’s important that you are involved in your kid’s social media presence; just make sure to be honest. Let them know that you’re monitoring their pages and work together to come up with ground rules about what they should or shouldn’t post. Your kids should take responsibility, but knowing that you’re watching won’t hurt.
Similarly, it’s imperative to foster open communication with your kids about their social media usage. Make sure they feel comfortable telling you about any uncomfortable situations online by regularly talking to them about their positive and negative experiences. With only 15% of parents feeling “in the know” about their kids’ online activity, you’ll want to make sure they’re comfortable approaching you.
8. Don’t Trust Strangers
Chat rooms, online forums, and social media pages are all ways for strangers to contact young kids and teens – sometimes for less-than-benign reasons. 17% of teens say they’ve been contacted online by someone they didn’t know in a way that made them feel scared or uncomfortable. To avoid this, tell your kids to avoid friending anyone they don’t know, and if something feels wrong, to stop communicating with that person.
9. Create a Strong Password
30% of teenagers have had their Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace account hacked into, largely because of someone guessing their password. Teach your kids that they should pick passwords that are a mix of characters and symbols and that are difficult to guess. They also shouldn’t share their passwords with anyone.
10. Be Careful of Scams
Kids are a prime target for scammers online –20% of people who’ve been hacked said it was their children who had downloaded a virus to the parents’ computer. Game scams are especially popular, which is when a virus is written into the code of a fake game and downloaded. Install all games with your kids, and teach them how to figure out if a game is safe to download – mainly by reading reviews and checking the game’s source.
Social media is an unavoidable reality for most of today’s kids. By making sure they follow certain tips, you can help them stay safe when communicating with others online. What tips do you tell your children about their social media use?