How on earth does “Don’t talk to strangers” work in the age of social networking?! Social media sites are as much a fact of teenager life as breathing.
But while air is unquestionably a good thing, social media action is proving a major parenting challenge. To dictate rules and line up expectations, parents need to take time to get their heads around the world their offspring consider a natural habitat: they need to understand the online world, watch what their kids are up to more closely and talk to them about online connections and behaviour.
A decade ago keeping your child physically safe was the main concern. Nowadays, we’re also responsible for kids’ internet security and that’s no easy task.
Guess what: They do listen!
Recent studies tell us that 95 percent of 12-to-17-year-olds are online and a staggering 80 percent of them are actively engaging on social media sites. But that’s hardly surprising, is it? What is unexpected, however, is that most teenagers actually follow their parents’ advice when it comes to their electronic life. Maybe it does make sense though: after all, kids don’t want to get in trouble on the internet any more than the rest of us. As with real-world communities, social media are not exactly a safe haven. Some users act inappropriately and contribute to cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, inappropriate content and identity theft becoming a daily occurrence.
All these seem good enough reasons to be careful when socializing online, but they only paint part of the picture. Computer security is also at risk, with all kinds of malware, phishing attempts and click-jacking schemes roaming the social networks.
To help you make social networking safer for your teenage children, we’ve put together these guidelines:
1) Get informed about social media sites, and how they work.
2) Help your kids use security settings to stay safe.
Explain that it’s important to set their profile to private and limit other people’s access to their information. It’s also a good idea not to “friend” just about anyone who asks.
3) Talk to them about keeping personal information private.
Tell them never to disclose any information that could make it easy for someone to guess who they are and where they live. This includes posting photos with street signs or the school premises, using the “check in” feature or sharing club affiliations.
4) Remind them that anything they post online could stay there forever.
An embarrassing photo, a disrespectful comment or a cruel joke could become part of their online reputation forever even though they are eventually deleted, as someone could save them for later use. Universities and employers tend to check the online profiles of applicants, so there’s no telling when such content could come back to haunt them. It is also recommended that they monitor what their friends post about them and ask for anything that bothers them to be deleted.
5) Warn them about flashy ads, strange links and so-called “free software”.
People share all kinds of dangerous things on social media, sometimes without realizing it. Ads and shared links could lead them to inappropriate content and malware-ridden or phishing websites. “Free” downloads usually come packed with spyware and viruses. This means their internet security could be compromised in just one click.
What to do?
Make sure the computers and phone they use are adequately protected by a powerful internet security suite.
Computer protection is not something to take lightly, especially when it comes to the devices your children use every day.
Social media is part of growing up today and teaching our kids to navigate them safely is all part of the parenting package.