School is out for the summer and the tasks that often fall upon the shoulders of your local schools are now sitting squarely on yours. In addition to making sure your kids practice their math facts, read regularly and get plenty of exercise, you’ll want to watch out for how they spend their free time when it comes to using Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and other sites that can expose their social media privacy.
Social Media refers to web-based and mobile applications that allow individuals and organizations to create, engage, and share new user-generated or existing content in digital environments through multi-way communication. Okay, that’s too technical. Social media is the use of Internet tools to communicate with a broader group. Some of the most common examples are listed above. If you have elementary aged children, they may use more secure, school-controlled forms such as Schoology, Edmodo or Club Penguin, but if your kids are older, I can almost guarantee they’re into Social Media sites whether you know if or not.
Statistics show that 73% of online adolescents visit social networking sites daily and two billion video clips are watched daily on YouTube. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently conducted a study that found that 22 percent of teenagers log onto their favorite social media sites more than 10 times a day, and that 75 percent own cell phones.
So, how do you battle such a time-consuming, captivating influence over your children? You don’t, because you won’t win! Instead you look at social media privacy best practices that schools implement and do the same at home.
- Expect the Internet to be used appropriately and responsibly and set agreements and consequences with your children if it is not. The Family Online Safety Institute can guide your discussion and even provide a contract.
- Expand your typical discussions about strangers to include social media
- Don’t accept unknown friend requests
- Don’t give out personal info – specifically: last name, phone number, address, birthdate, pictures, password, location
- Warn kids about the dangers of clicking on pop-up ads or links with tempting offers, fun contests, or interesting questionnaires, even if they’re sent from a friend. They may really want that free iPad being offered, but chances are it’s just a way for someone to glean their personal information.
- Monitor the information your kids give out and their use of sites; let your children know they should have no expectation of privacy. (Make that part of your contract.) You can also install filtering software to monitor their social media use and even their cell phones. A few popular ones are Net Nanny and PureSight PC to help keep your child safe online and My Mobile Watchdog to help with monitoring their cell phones.
- Check your privacy settings for all Internet sites and make sure they are set to the strictest levels.
- Remind your child that once it’s published, social media is public, permanent, and exploitable forever- even when “deleted”
- Set limits on social networking time and cell phone time, just as you would for TV hours. Many families limit total screen time, which includes everything from computers, iPads, smartphones, and video games to our old fashioned notion of television.
- Be a good example yourself. Monitor your own amount of time spent online and seek to find a balance of activities. When you are on you iPhone at dinner, you are letting your kids know that this is acceptable behavior.
- Monitor your child’s activities and try to stay educated about the latest platforms!
Social Media can be a positive way for kids to continue to develop friendships while they’re home for the summer and to feel like they’re connected to a community that matters more to them than anything. But there are risks that come with it and it’s your job as a parent to protect them from those risks just as surely as you keep them from taking candy from a stranger
Social networking has an addictive component because dopamine (a natural feel-good drug produced by the body) is released anytime we talk about ourselves. And what is social networking if not a constant exposé of what is happening in our lives? Just make sure you know what is happening in your child’s life, even in the more relaxed months of summer.
John Sileo is an online privacy expert and professional speaker on social media privacy. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, Visa, and Homeland Security. See his recent media appearances on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.