by Jennifer Leonard
Keeping kids safe online can feel like an uphill battle – especially when there’s 1,300 new Android apps added each day and over 2.2 million apps in the iTunes store (Statista). That’s an overwhelming number of apps for kids to have access to and even more overwhelming for parents to know which of those are safe for their kids to use.
Since kids are accessing social media primarily on their tablets or phones through apps, monitoring their social media etiquette can be tricky. Luckily, there are a few basic tips that can help kids maintain their social networking connections with friends and keep their information and themselves safe.
Take a look below at a few helpful tips that are relevant for users of all ages. (Parents, these are useful tips for you to model too!)
1. You might share more than you intend
There’s an entire world of data at our fingertips when we’re online and for kids, this means understanding that you shouldn’t share your Social Security number, phone number and home address, but also that other information is available to people that you might not intend to consciously share.
For example, did you know that your photos have metadata attached to them? This means that an innocent selfie can easily be reverse-image searched on Google and the location coordinates, data and time the photo was taken is easily accessible.
Major sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram automatically scrub this information, but they do still prompt your geo-tagged location when posting. When in doubt, turn off the location services on your child’s phone to prevent that information from being shared.
2. Beware of the background
Beyond the metadata, anyone who’s ever used Facebook to check out an ex, friend, or frenemy can tell you that there’s a lot to learn from your posts. People give away more information than they’re aware of and finding basic information isn’t that hard to do when you have a digital footprint.
How many photos are there of kids on their profiles wearing a hoodie with their school name on it? Or how many photos are there where your child could be in the background of someone else’s photo, never knowing that moment was captured?
For parents, how often do you share a photo of your house’s amazing Christmas lights display for everyone to see? Each of these images can give someone who’s seeking more information a little clue that they can follow until they have a full picture of your life.
One popular grooming technique some online predators even use is to scan posted images for the background information of things in your house or room. Is there a book on your child’s nightstand? This can be an effortless way to strike up a conversation over a common interest and further gather more information.
This type of information isn’t just used by online offenders, but school admissions boards and potential employers typically look at a candidate’s social media presence very closely for any red flags too.
3. Keep it clean
Kids shouldn’t be cursing anyway, but sometimes expletives are shared not just in status updates or photo captions of their own, but also in someone else’s tweet that your child might retweet, a popular meme that’s spreading like wildfire or from a Facebook page that has an inappropriate name.
This is also a tricky thing to manage when using music social networking sites, like Musical.ly, because many times the songs playing can have suggestive words in them.
For kids, it’s important to remember that every single post can follow them throughout their life. Their reputation is 100% digital, something that is unique to this generation, and that means that diligence isn’t anything to roll their eyes at. Whether your child is 10 or 17, bad behavior online can tarnish their reputation in a matter of seconds.
4. Gossip isn’t anyone’s friend
While gossip isn’t something that’s easy to steer any child away from, it’s important for them to understand that it’s a form of bullying. Whether it’s flaming (harassment in a group chat) or denigration (the spreading of malicious rumors), it’s not cool. (Not familiar with these terms? Read our Cyberbullying Guide for Parents.)
Cyberbullying is happening at many schools across the country and while no parent wants their child to be bullied, it can be hard to know what’s going on during their day. By teaching your kids to not participate in bullying behavior, but also to stand up to it, you can encourage accountability and social responsibility.
5. Some moments are off limits
Especially for new cell phone users, it’s important to explain that not everyone wants pictures of themselves shared online without their permission. It’s a good idea to keep some rooms of the house at home off limits for social media use, like bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.
By teaching kids this common courtesy, they can begin to develop good social media etiquette.
6. Use the “Grandma rule”
This is a rule that kids and adults alike can benefit from. Basically, if you would feel embarrassed or uncomfortable by your grandparents seeing your post, then you shouldn’t hit send. This is a gut tester – something that should make all social media users stop and think before they post without a care in the world.
The wonderful thing that kids today can do is to learn from our own mistakes. We’re not perfect and we don’t expect our kids to be either, but we do wish them every advantage possible in their journey through this digital world.
This parenting insight was provided by Zift, a digital parenting app and educational resource for modern families.