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Keeping your kids safe on social media

As a parent in today's digital age, one of the biggest challenges you face is how to keep your children safe while they use social media.

With so many social media platforms and apps available, it can be overwhelming to keep track of your child's online activity.

However, there are steps you can take to help keep your child safe and protect their privacy online.

Firstly, it is important to learn about the programs and apps your child is using. Some social media platforms have age restrictions to join, but it's easy for children to get around these. Show interest in your child's online life and ask questions.

When possible, keep tablets and computers in common areas where you can watch while your child uses them.

Secondly, get online family protection. Programs that provide parental controls can block websites, enforce time limits, monitor the websites your child visits, and their online conversations. Follow your child's online accounts, and tell them that you are monitoring their online activity to help keep them safe. Some children or teens may create a fake second account for their parents to follow.

Thirdly, talk to your children about the importance of keeping online friendships in the online world. Make it clear that if your child wants to meet an online friend in person, it must be in a public place and with a trusted adult.

Discuss what's okay and safe to post online, and what isn't. Online posts stay online forever. As a general rule, your child shouldn't post anything they wouldn't want a parent or teacher to see or read.

Fourthly, it is important to model good behavior on your own social media accounts. Set screen time limits and rules on when screens are appropriate to use.

Teach your child the value of "unplugging" from devices for technology-free time. Social media can be exciting, but it should be considered entertainment. Remind your child that no message is so important that it can't wait until the morning.

Fifthly, it is important to discuss online privacy with your children. Most social media websites have privacy policies and settings, but they are all different. Some sites are completely public, meaning that anyone can read or look at anything, anytime.

Other sites let you control who has access to your information. Read a website's privacy policy before sharing any personal information. Check your child's privacy policy settings to make sure they aren't sharing more information than you want (for example, their birthdate or location).

Encourage your child to use an online nickname, instead of a real name, whenever possible. Make sure your child keeps every account password protected, and have them change passwords often.

Sixthly, it is important to discuss cyberbullying and sexting with your children.

Cyberbullying is when people are bullied online. While most online social interactions are positive, some people use the technology to intimidate and harass others.

Cyberbullying can happen in many ways: by sending mean messages over e-mail or by posting them publicly in an app like Facebook, by sharing photos and videos without permission, or by excluding someone from a group chat. Talk to your children about cyberbullying.

If it isn't too serious, suggest that they ignore it at first. If it doesn't stop, is violent or sexually explicit, or if your child gets scared, encourage them to talk to you or another trusted adult.

Sexting is sending sexually explicit messages, photos or videos between smartphones or social media apps. It can also happen over e-mail. Ask your teen what they know about sexting.

Talk about the dangers of sexting. Remind your teen that words and photos posted online can easily be shared with others. Remind them that nothing is ever really deleted online. Friends, enemies, parents, teachers, coaches, strangers, and potential employers can find past posts.


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