Social media has become an integral part of our everyday lives. From Facebook to Twitter, Instagram to Snapchat, kids – and their parents – are spending more time than ever before on social media. More than 60% of teens have at least once social media account, with the majority sharing their lives on more than one account.
While social media gives us the ability to connect with friends no matter where they are, it also creates some serious safety concerns for parents. “The digital world is an evolving landscape that parents have to learn to navigate,” says Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, M.D. of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The following tips can help students safely use social media, sharing with their friends without exposing themselves to the dangers of the digital world.
1. Don’t post the Big Five. Most of us have fallen prey to oversharing at one point or another. However, there are cases when posting TMI can endanger your safety. Parents should teach kids about the “Big Five,” or the five pieces of information they should never share online. The Big Five are their home address, home or cell phone number, social security number (even the last 4 numbers), birth date with year, and current school or city. All of this information can be used to steal your identity online – as well as provide information to predators about your children’s whereabouts. While sites such as Facebook require information such as birthday, school, or city to create a profile, who can access this information can be adjusted in privacy settings.
2. Create the right privacy settings. Social media sites allow us to control who has access to our information. Help your child set the appropriate security and privacy settings on their accounts. Doing this helps control who can see their information, and find them online. Limiting who can send friend requests or setting accounts to “friends only” are two ways to protect your child.
3. Keep an open dialogue. Parents cannot “set it and forget it” when it comes to online safety. Instead, create an open dialogue around social media. Doing this allows your child to feel comfortable coming to you if they become the victim of cyber-bullying or other forms of online harassment. Some parents choose to actively monitor their children’s online profiles and messages; doing this is a personal choice that often depends on the age and maturity of your child as well as their online history and experience.
When it comes to students and social media, there are no easy answers. By teaching children to be safe and make smart decisions about what they post, parents can help ensure their students are protected in the digital world.