Arts & culture

Keeping our children safe on social media

While Facebook has its age limit set at 13-years-old, the majority of kids from 10 to 12 now have social media accounts, a new study shows, and 96 percent of teens from 13 to 18 participate in social networks

The social media world, a socially enriching tool inseparable from modern society, has become a dangerous place for children and teens who are not correctly supervised and taught about its threats. For example, 24 percent of teens suffer online trolling, and the majority of kids have seen some kind of online hate.

If you’re a parent, here are some tips and tricks you can implement at home to teach children about internet privacy and safety, and to monitor social media activity:

Age limit

Social networks have a reason to have established an age limit – according to experts, children younger than 13 are not emotionally mature enough yet to be able to handle social media rules and to engage in ethical thinking, so parents are advised not to allow children younger than 13 to have social media accounts.

Monitoring apps

Parents should discuss with their children why they might need to use a monitoring app, such as Net Nanny. This web-based platform allows parents to see their kids’ social media activity from a simple web dashboard by monitoring a child’s friends, pictures and posts on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. TeenSafe allows parents to view the child’s phone activity, including social media.

Lay out some ground rules

Whether your child is a teenager or a kid in elementary school, you need to give them a few basic guidelines. For example, you can start by telling them that anything shared once on the internet stays there forever and that nothing is 100% private. Have a talk with your child and discuss what they should not share on social media. If you want to take an extra step in securing your child’s online privacy, create fake social media names for them and a fake school/city name.

Tell them to check with you

First tell your child what “personal information” means. Draw up a list for them and tell them clearly that they should always consult with you before sharing those details together with any website or person on the internet.

Password protection and usage

These days, children create their own email accounts at a young age. Although such email websites alert users to choose strong passwords, advise your child on what kind of passwords to choose. Tell them that the password could be a mix of characters and special symbols and ask them never to share their passwords with anyone. Make sure that you also use strong passwords, so that your children cannot easily guess the passwords you are using for monitoring apps, for example.

Explain the dangers of free public Wi-Fi

Kids love free Wi-Fi – who doesn’t? Cafes, shops, and even the school cafeteria might have unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Tell your kids to be especially cautious when connecting to these networks, as they can be easily hacked into. Hackers can then steal a child’s personal information using these networks, and use the info for identity theft or bullying. One of the best ways to safely use public Wi-Fi is by installing a VPN. You can pre-install a VPN on a mobile device and teach kids to turn it on whenever using public Wi-Fi.

Install a VPN

For ultimate protection, install a VPN service on the device kids use to encrypt their online communication data. VPN, or Virtual Private Network, creates a connection tunnel that encrypts internet data between your device and a VPN server, and effectively protects anyone using the internet. NordVPN is one of the safest and most user-friendly VPNs on the market. All you have to do is press the ON button – and you are connected. This is especially great for children, as they can protect their identity with a simple click of a button. NordVPN works on up to 6 devices, and now also has Mac and Android apps.

Warn them of game scams

Agree to install games together with your kids. Research to see if the game and the provider are reputable. Make sure you download games only from a reputable source, after reading some reviews, to avoid fake games.

Communication with strangers

As kids are eager to discuss their interests with peers on social media, it is important to speak to them about sharing their private information. Under no circumstances should they share any pictures, addresses, etc.

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