Social media is a term that is loosely used with the current trends. If a website needs some sort of input from users, people immediately say that it is a social media website. However, is it really that simple in defining social media? Or is there something much deeper than that? There are literally thousands or millions of websites that are created and closed each month. With that amount, there are also limitless opportunities for your children to use and access them. In the same regard, you wouldn’t let your child wander into unknown dangerous territory where they are easy prey for malicious elements, so you should do the same with regards to social media sites. Even if your child is at home, they could be accessing sensitive content by themselves or be harassed by unknown peers in the comfort of your own home. As responsible parents, here’s what you can do to protect them even in the cyber space.
Open Lines of Communication
Encourage your children to talk with you about new experiences offline and online. They should tell you if they encounter any websites that make them feel uncomfortable, anxious, or feel violated in some way. When they approach you with this information, stay calm and let them know that they didn’t do anything wrong by sharing this information with you. Work together with your children to help them resolve this and turn this into a positive situation.
Internet House Rules
Even if they’re on the internet, that doesn’t mean they can do whatever they want. When your children are able to use the internet, it’s a very good idea to immediately establish internet rules which everyone (including you) agree on. It can include which social websites they can use and how long they are able to use the internet. In addition, when you do impose these internet house rules, make sure that you are firm in enforcing them.
If you are a more technical person, you can even impose parental security controls over your internet. There are a lot of good internet resources for this. What it does is that you are able to exercise some form of control in blocking unwanted sites in your home network. Even after your children have already logged off the internet, you can still see their internet traffic, meaning the sites they have accessed and how long they stayed on each site or used the internet in general. It might seem intrusive to some people, but since this is your children’s security and privacy, you can’t be too lenient on this matter. Anyway it’s just for the time being, while your children are learning the ropes regarding which websites to visit and for them to develop self-control in using the internet.
No Meet Ups
It is important that you remind your children time and time again that they should not meet someone they just met over the internet and that they should just meet the people they have already met before in person. A lot of sex offenders and malicious people masquerade as young users over the internet and they will attempt to isolate your children in person. While your children are still using social network sites for the first few times, you should remind them that they can use it to communicate with their friends whom they have already met, and not strangers they have met online only. From your children’s point of view, ‘meeting’ someone over the internet can count as meeting someone in real life and they might start trusting that stranger too easily.
Be cautious with some information that your children might have posted on a social networking site. It could be something harmless like their email, but they could also post some identifiable information like their phone number or address. Stalkers and cyber bullies can use these to identify them. In many cases, even seemingly inconspicuous information like pictures about their school mascot, their workplaces, or the names of towns can be used. Regularly reviewing your children’s profile can help you stop stalkers from identifying your child. When your children sign up for a social networking site, ensure that they don’t use their full names but use nick names or just their first name instead.
As soon as your children start using social networking sites, have a serious talk with them about cyberbullying. It’s not enough that your children report to you if they are harassed or feel violated on the internet by someone or a group of people, but they should also avoid being the bully in this situation. Just as you wouldn’t want your child to be bullied even in cyberspace, so would other parents as well. Teach your children to treat other people the way they would want to be treated in person.
Use Appropriate Age
Teach your children to use their correct age when signing up for membership in websites. Most websites need users to be at least 13 years old before they can access the content. It’s not enough that you block inappropriate website or monitor their searches, your children can still access inappropriate websites by clicking on links from regular or harmless websites. If your children abide by a website’s use and they use their real age in signing up, you are ensured that they are only able to access content suitable for their age.
There is a huge chance that your children might post something innocent on their social network page but it might be upsetting a few years later. For example, a potential employer or college in the future might do an internet search on your child and find his/her profile page. This could be very damaging to your children’s career even if they didn’t do anything wrong. If you notice something possibly inoffensive, have it removed immediately by your child; then have a talk why made them do it and why they shouldn’t post something like that in the near future. Keep in mind that anything your children do online will be sure to leave a trace in the digital world.
For parents, protecting your children in social networking sites can be a pretty daunting task. Especially since these kind of information or tools weren’t available in your younger times so everything can be new to you. Your children and internet predators can easily outsmart you in these areas, which is why preparation is vital in your children’s protection.