Short of outright banning electronics from kids, there’s no way you can keep them from being on social media. It’s the main way they socialize. It can be outright frightening to be a parent these days knowing about child predators lurking online, and worrying about your child being one of their next victims. You, as a parent, must get involved. Teach your kids about the online verification tools, and keep an eye on what they’re doing and who they’re talking to.
Safety From the Get-Go
Safety should start immediately. A recent Pew Research study says about six out of ten teens say they met a new friend online, and 20% of teens eventually met someone in person. Parents have always told children not to talk to strangers and this is no different! Kids rush into the virtual world unaware of the permanence of what happens there. Information sticks! That could impact anything that comes up in the future, like a future college administrator or employer who one day just might stumble on something that might look unfavorable.
Stay engaged with children’s online activity, particularly in the pre and early-teen years. Experts call it ‘tech transparency.’ Kids always stay current with the popular apps. Let your child know you’re interested in his or her online life and you want to know what apps they are using. Ask them to show you how to use the app they are currently thrilled about. There’s nothing wrong with conducting periodic spot checks. Educate them about internet safety. You should also urge them to ignore questionnaires and offers for free giveaways and contests.
Apple and Android-based phones make parental controls easy. Apple devices have an ‘Ask to Buy’ feature where kids have to get parental approval to purchase and download it. Android has a similar feature called Authentication in the Google Play store. Use these features to learn about the apps before letting your child use them. Some apps warn you of suspicious activity. PocketGuardian monitors the content your child is viewing on social media. The app will notify parents of any explicit content or cyberbullying. You can also utilize a reliable online background check service like www.checkthem.com to run people searches on anyone your child befriended on social media.
Computer & Phone History
There are quick and easy ways to periodically check on your child’s online activity by looking at their web history through their phone or tablet’s browsing history. Looking up phone numbers in your child’s phone history gives you the ability to know where calls come from. Computer history will also be very helpful! It will list all websites visited up to that point. Of course, any kid who wants to keep their web history private can erase their history in two clicks. However, your child’s constantly empty browser history might be a cause for alarm and reason to wonder what they’re up to. In addition to checking browsing history, you should adjust the settings from the options tab to maximize privacy and adjust other levels. Check out this great article on protecting your child from sex offenders.
Cyberbullying is common with kids, especially teenagers. Several states and countries have passed laws that identify cyberbullying as a crime. Children with low self-esteem or emotionally unstable seem to be especially vulnerable and has led to suicide in the worse cases. It is often perpetrated where victims are targeted in an online community like social media or gaming activity where people are regularly interacting. Studies show about one in four children have been the victims of cyberbullying, and about one in six admit to participating in it to some extent. Experts say it’s difficult to accurately measure the extent of cyberbullying because kids are often reluctant to report it. Nevertheless, cyberbullying has serious repercussions. Research suggests both victims and bullies are at greater risk for stress-related disorders like anxiety and depression.
Identifying Signs of Cyberbullying
There are signs you as a parent can pick up on without constantly monitoring your child’s social media activity.
- He or she appears emotionally upset while using their phone or computer.
- They could also be very protective of what they are doing online.
- Your child could be conspicuously trying to avoid going to school or group activities.
- They might be showing signs of withdrawal with family and friends.
- Mood swings, explosive outbursts, slipping grades, and changes in behavior are also symptoms.
Social Networking Guidelines
Before you start talking to your child about the risks associated with social media, you need to set some guidelines and decide what age is appropriate for your child to even be using it. Technically, Facebook requires a minimum age of 13 to be able to join the social network. There’s no way to enforce this, but it’s probably something many parents are unaware of. Once you find out what apps and social networks your child is on, you need to make sure their privacy settings are set to the strictest levels. Adjusting your browser options to the strictest security settings and to block third-party sites protects the user, and also your computer from getting viruses.
Limit Cell Phone Use
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s one of the most important rules that’s probably often woefully neglected. You need to instill in your child’s mind that it’s unhealthy and detrimental to their well being to spend too much time on their phone and computer. Set some ground rules and certain times they can be on social media, like early in the evening or when they finish their homework. And if they’re of driving age, it’s absolutely imperative they know that under no circumstances whatsoever should they ever use their phone while driving.