Although social media has created new ways to connect with friends and family, it’s also created some new dangers, especially for young children and teenagers. And considering teens spend almost nine hours a day using entertainment media, according to a study by Common Sense Media, it’s more important now than ever that parents are aware of how to protect their children, especially with new forms of social media constantly emerging.
As most parents know, banning their children and teens from using social media altogether isn’t going to go over too well, and it may not actually stop them from using social media websites and applications anyway since many of them can only be used via smartphone. However, if you know more about how these social media platforms your children are using work, you can understand what to look out for and how to keep them safe. To help, we’ve detailed a few tips for keeping your children safe on social media.
Turn off GPS and location-enabled features
Although sharing your location with trusted friends and family can be fun and even occasionally helpful, parents should be wary when it comes to their children sharing their location online. Making sure your kids have their location disabled when sharing pictures, statuses or other posts is imperative in ensuring their safety, especially if they are posting at school or home, as they could unknowingly be giving predators their exact location. While sharing a user’s location usually isn’t a default setting on social media applications, an app may start sharing the phone’s location for every post in the future after enabling it just one time (assuming it has already been granted permission to use geolocation features).
As a parent, you’ll also want to check your children’s previous posts to see if any past locations have been shared. You can then use your best judgment to decide if you want to delete the post entirely or simply edit the post to remove the location information. If your child uses geolocation for certain activities, like playing Pokémon Go, you’ll want to be aware of when the GPS is enabled and consider participating in those activities with your child, as it’ll allow you to supervise and spend time with them — it’s a win-win. Read our guide to geolocation to learn more about location settings and the dangers of geolocation tags.
Check privacy settings
It’s becoming more and more common on social media for users’ profiles to automatically be set to public. This means that more often than not, your kids’ name, photos and other posts may be visible to anyone and everyone on the Internet. And because it’s typically a default setting, your children probably aren’t even aware that their posts are public.
This is why it’s extremely important that you not only teach your kids the importance of protecting their privacy online, but that you also check the privacy settings on their social media profiles. For most social media websites and applications, this can be easily checked and updated under general settings or privacy settings.
And don’t forget to check your children’s web browser if the social media app is one that can also be accessed with or without a mobile device, such as Facebook and Twitter. Something parents should also be aware of is that social media sites and apps often make changes to their privacy settings. As such, parents will want to make this privacy setting check-in a regular event.
Monitor what your kids are posting online
In addition to making sure your kids keep their social media posts private — meaning they’re only sharing things with friends and family they know in real life — you should also be monitoring what they’re posting, as there are certain things your kids should never post online.
As many of us know, the Internet era has created a digital footprint for everyone, and while your kids may think posts are temporary, especially because of the way that some apps operate (e.g., Snapchat), nothing is ever truly temporary on the Internet because technology has a way of keeping a digital record of everything shared online.
It’s never too early to start teaching your kids safe posting practices, especially as more employers and even some schools, are now taking social media accounts into consideration. By starting early, you can instill some great knowledge in your children to help them create a positive digital footprint that may set them up for success later in life.
Learn about the social media apps your kids are using
Because there are so many social media platforms out there, it can be hard to keep up. Fortunately, a number of parents and social media experts have completed a lot of research detailing these platforms, which are great resources for parents who are new to social media. But an even better resource is your children.
You can learn so much simply by speaking with your children and asking questions about which social media channels they use and what it is that they like about the apps they frequent. Some parents may even find it helpful to sign up for these social media apps and create an account for themselves to really get familiar with how they connect with others, how posts are shared and how cyberbullying and abuse reports are handled.
Jessa Barron is NextAdvisor.com writer who covers genealogy, email marketing, VoIP, virtual phones, fashion clubs, online video, home security, diet programs, Internet fax and parental controls. Her writing has been published by The Huffington Post, Elite Daily and Thought Catalog. She is a graduate of Temple University and currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.