There will be a lot of teenagers that get computers from Santa this Christmas. Social networking sites will be at the top of all of their lists. Every parent cringes at the thought of the predators lurking behind the computer screen. Here are some safety tips that can keep your child safe while using social networking sites.
You set up the password for the account and it can not be changed without your permission. This will give you 100% access to everything that your child is doing on the social networking site. It also allows you to look at profiles with whom your child is friends. Monitor this quite regularly. Look at their friends pictures and posts so you can get a feel for what this person is doing online. Set the notification settings so that you will receive emails for all people who request to be your child’s friend, any notifications and all private messages. This will also notify you if your child changes their password. If you have a younger teen it is wise to not post their last name. Have all of the privacy setting set to the highest levels and make your child’s name unsearchable. This will allow only friends of friends to be able to possible add them and takes their name out of general searches.
It isn’t just more catchy names that are the issue but the most secure privacy settings can be reached as children’s passwords are known to be susceptible to hackers.
Make the rule that if they do not know the person in real life that they may not add them as a friend. Even if it is their best friend’s cousin. Online predators are not always someone that you do not know. It is best to limit contact to people that are in their social circle at school and family members. Limiting access to information and pictures of your child is in the best interest of keeping your child safe.
It takes a village. Just like in real life, it is important to know the parents of the children that your child have connected with on a social networking site. Keep in close contact with other parents so that you all may keep weary eyes out for people that you do not want your children communicating with online. Also, stay on the look out for cyber bullying.
Follow the rules. Face book and Twitter both have rules in place about no one under the age of 13. If a child younger than this age opens an account it is because they put in an older year for their age. This will open the door for your child to lie about their age. This is the type of behavior that lures predators. It also can be used against you if you did have a claim of someone trying to inappropriately contact your child.
Monitor the pictures that your child posts online. This seems like something that really should not be said, but it is surprising the amount of 10 year olds that I have seen with “bikini shots” posted on social sites. What seems like a cute photo can end up being a lure for predators. Also, even if you have the super strict privacy settings on the account it will not prevent people from right click and copying pictures of your children. If your child is in their early teens I would recommend that you not allow them to have a picture of themselves as their main profile picture. Pick a sports team or a picture of something that your child is interested. Do not allow your child to post any pictures of their school or any identifying location.
Stay strict with rules as your child gets older. I think that most parents that sign up a 13 year old for a networking site would have in place a strict monitoring system. It is important that as your child gets older that your give them a little more leeway. However, it is still important to monitor older teenage children. A 16 or 17 year old needs to have guidance on making good decisions online. Posting one picture or status that is considered derogatory can make a huge impact in your teens life. It is also important that you know that they are not being bullied or pressured to do things that are against your rules.