Social media sites like Facebook have changed the way people communicate, share information and interact with each other. While it has made it much easier to keep in touch with friends, family and even old high school sweethearts, there is a darker side of these social properties. Millions of children have Facebook, Twitter and other social accounts, and they are often targeted by online predators. Keeping kids safe while using social media sites is a difficult, but essential job of parents.
Fortunately, there are a variety of tools and suggestions available to help parents keep their kids from falling victim to these online predators. It is important for parents who allow their children to access the internet in general, and specifically social media sites to take the time necessary to learn about the threats they will face, and how to prevent them. It is easiest to look at this situation based on the way kids access these sites. They typically use either mobile devices like tablets and smart phones, or computers such as desktops and laptops. Each of these options has their own set of risks and tools to keep children safe.
When kids are using mobile devices to access the Internet it can be more difficult to keep track of what they are doing. It is fast and easy for a child to close out a program or change what they are doing when parents enter the room. This is particularly dangerous because most kids who are being targeted by online predators will attempt to hide this fact from their parents and other adults in their life. Finding ways to keep track of what kids are doing on mobile devices is essential. The following are some of the best tips for keeping kids safe.
•Open Access – Make sure kids know that all their activity can, and will be monitored by the parents. Checking to see if browsing history has been deleted or if they are accessing social media sites through the web rather than through an app is a great way to see if something out of the ordinary is going on.
• Be “Friends” – When children have a social media account, parents should always be their ‘friend’ or follow them, and the kids should know it. This will keep kids from being tempted to post or comment on things they should not be interacting with.
• Protection Apps – There are many apps which can lock down access to certain things based on a variety of different settings. Parents can set these apps up to track web use or simply block access at certain times of the day. These apps are available from mobile providers like Vodafone or third party app creators.
In addition to mobile devices, kids often access social media sites from normal desktop and laptop computers. While most parents know how to use these computers better than mobile devices, there are also more ways for kids to hide their activities. Keeping an eye on the following areas will help alert parents to any suspicious activity.
• New Browsers – There are dozens of different web browsers available to choose from. If children are installing a new one, it could be an attempt to hide the types of pages they are visiting. Limit the number of browsers to two or three on a computer.
• Disabled Web Protection Software – Installing web protection software is essential for Internet safety, but parents need to be checking to see if, and when, the kids have disabled it or attempted to disable it.
• Unmonitored Browsing – If the computer is in an area where parents don’t frequently go, kids will feel more confident in trying to do something they shouldn’t. Keep the computer in a centrally located area and check up on the children regularly.