When kids are growing up, we teach them to not talk to strangers, wear helmets and seatbelts in order to keep them safe. But now that the world is at their fingertips online, what do we tell them? In light of Child Abuse Awareness Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it’s important to think about safety a little differently and being knowledgeable about what perpetrators can use to access our children. Did you know social media apps have age restrictions? The most common used (Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat) have a requirement of 13 years old. Cyberbullying is a big problem as well as exposure to inappropriate content and exploitation of private information. There are things you can do to keep your kids safe online and The Department of Homeland Security reports on five tips:
- Don’t share too much online – discuss with your kids ahead of time what information should be kept private (full name, birthdate, address, phone number).
- Be careful about what you post – the internet never forgets and others can share whatever pictures or information is shared online. Look at the background of your pictures and if there’s anything identifying.
- Only connect with people you know –Predators can easily create fake profiles and pose as someone who goes to their school.
- Keep your location and profile private – be aware of geo-tagging and which apps your child is using that has this feature and turn it off. For example, Snapchat has a feature Snap Map that allows users to search in their area for others using the app and shows their location and time of post down to the block along with their photos or videos.
- Protect your password – show your kids examples of smart, strong passwords and inform them not to share them with anyone other than their parents.
Jenni Watgen, MA, NCC, LCPC