The use of social media is on the rise and the research shows that about 22% of the teenagers log on to their favorite sites of social media more than ten times daily and about 75% of them own a cell phone. With such high engagement levels, there are multiple risks including that of cyberbullying, “Facebook depression” (it is a new phenomenon meaning that “de-friending” and the online bullying can lead to the depression symptoms), sexting and exposure to the inappropriate content.
No Underage Facebooking
Are you aware of the fact that no one who is under 13 years old is allowed to join Facebook? But the problem is that Facebook does not have a way to enforce it totally because people can lie about their age. You should make sure that your kids do not use Facebook until they are 13 years AND until you as a parent are comfortable with your child having a Facebook account. Some measures like reporting an underage child do exist but ultimately the parent should have the say about the child having an account or not.
Child Privacy Settings
Use the Filtering Software
You can purchase different software suits in order to monitor the internet usage of your child. Many of such software suits allow you to know the exact keys which were typed, the time that was spent online and all the general computer activity. Popular programs like PureSight PC and Net Nanny allow you to monitor different social media websites, filter content, block chats and a lot more. There is even software named My Mobile Watchdog with which you can monitor your child’s cell phone.
Create the Ground Rules
Do you think that your child is now old enough to use a computer? Well, in that case, he or she is old enough for understanding the fact that they should obey rules. And breaking these rules should have an equal consequence to if they break a rule in the offline world. The best way of agreeing to the ground rules for families is to make a contract which all parties should sign. Parents and the kids are encouraged by the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) to have open discussions about the rules and their meanings, and the institute also offers a very good example of such a contract.
Get to know the habits of your child
There is no need for you to be a spy and super sleuth on each online move of your kid, but it’s important that you are aware of the websites which your kid visits frequently and to be aware of the people who your kid is associating with. Just like you want to know the friends which your kid has in school, you should be aware of your kid’s online friends. An important rule of contract should be that you have the full access to the Facebook friends of your kid and you should be able to have a look whenever you want.
Keep the computer in a central location
Having a check on the online activity is much easier when the computer is placed in high traffic zone compared to if the child uses the computer in the privacy of his or her room. You should place the computer in some central location such as family room or kitchen so that whatever your child is doing online is out in the open.
Urge the kids to avoid the questionnaires, contests and free giveaways
Suddenly one pop-up ad shows up and tells your kid that they can win free an iPod simply by clicking a link. Of course, anyone will get tempted by such an offer, particularly the kids. So it is important that you warn your child against falling for such internet tricks. Many of these ruses are simply attempts to get the personal information. Tell your kids that even if they receive fun questionnaires from their friends, it is best that they simply close window and avoid participating.
Monitor the photos which your child posts online
In the ideal world, kids won’t post photos of themselves online, but it’s not entirely realistic. In case your child wants to share his or her photos with the friends via social network websites or email, make sure that you are aware of the photos that your child posts. Ensure that content of photos being posted is totally innocuous and that none of the identifiable locales in the background are visible.
Be a good example of how social media should be used
In case you are updating your Facebook page or tweeting at the stop light or taking every opportunity you have to check something, you are surely setting a very bad precedent for using social media and your child will follow it. Always remember asking yourself that you are setting a good example and are demonstrating the proper etiquettes of technology.
Limit the use of cell phone
As you will limit the use of TV, a gaming system or a computer, you may do same with a cell phone. You can set some rules, only allowing the usage of the cell phone at the certain hours in the evenings or after finishing the homework. In case you have children who are at the driving age, the most important of the rules to enforce is the one that cell phones should never be used while driving. The phone should be off so that the sound of incoming calls or texts doesn’t distract or it should be kept in the glove compartment where it is out of reach.
Talk to your kids about the online dangers
You might feel that you are scaring the kids by telling them about online dangers, but it’s much better for your kids to be scared of these dangers than to stay unaware of them. It is crucial to have an open communication from the minute when your kid starts using the internet independently. A noted privacy and online safety expert, Perry Aftab who is the Executive Director of the WiredSafety asks the question who is the stranger online. Well, everyone is! Make sure to remind your child that all the people online are strangers so standard rules should always be applied.
Get to know Technology
The kids have quickly gained mastery of the latest technologies and they can understand the nuances which new gadgets have much easier than we can in many cases. It is the responsibility of every parent to be aware of the key features that their kids’ gadgets have. According to Stephen Balkam who is the founding CEO of Family Online Safety Institute, it can be a humbling experience. You might find that you did not have any idea that Sony Playstation Portable which you bought for your last Christmas had a web browser as well. Or that your five-year-old child has created an online avatar on the Club Penguin and he or she regularly goes for the in-world pizza with his or her penguin friends.