Social Networks Safety

Social networks safety while online presents particular safety issues for your child. Social networking websites present a wider chance for sex offenders and scam artists to exploit the younger and less experienced online users and our children are particularly vulnerable.

There are different types of risks that your child can be exposed to when using a social networking website. Material that parents and other adults will likely find objectionable is present on these sites such as obscene language, suggestive or pornographic images, racist remarks and sentiments that are very unhealthy for your child to be exposed to, especially on a regular basis.

Your child can also be overexposed to sexual predators through social networking sites. They may post personal information and photographs of themselves in provocative poses that can attract all types of risky and very unhealthy outcomes.

Your child can also get recruited into the wrong groups and industries such as dealing drugs, pornographic productions, human trafficking and suicide pacts. All these and more have been reported to be accelerated by contact with malicious people on the Internet, specifically through social networking sites.

This is often a very scary situation for parents and caregivers as we often fall behind our own children on the know-how and culture of social networking. It is also difficult to balance the line between giving a child privacy and knowing everything and everywhere they are online.

Here are some guidelines for parents and caregivers to enhance your child’s social networks safety when using the Internet and visiting online communities.

First and foremost, open your own social networking account to familiarize with the sites~Parents should not shy away from social networking websites either because we are intimidated by the technology or simply have no interest for ourselves. We need to open an account to understand the process and become familiar with the online culture. This is truly one of the best ways to see what our children do online and presents an opportunity for them to show you why they are so interested in being online with friends. You do not have to participate  yourself, simply look around and evaluate for yourself whether your child will be safe on there. You can also look at your child’s profile to see whether they have followed your instructions and check in from time to time.

Remind your child that all social networking sites are public websites~Any information given on the website is accessible by not only the people you want to have it but potentially a lot of other individuals, who you would never otherwise give such information to about you and your family. Privacy settings such as hiding your profile or restricting it to only your friends  are insufficient strategies for online safety because a stranger may befriend your child and get added as a ‘friend’, hence getting access to the child’s full name, address, school and other details. This is precisely why we advocate not putting up any personal information on you or your child’s profiles.

Do not allow your child to lie about their age to sign up for a social networking account~The age restriction for joining the majority of social networking sites online is between 14and 18 depending on the site but of course anyone can type in any age when signing up for an account. There is no  way of verifying a member’s age, so it is the parent’s responsibility to know their child’s online activities. Some parents, due to the dangers presented by the Internet, may think that 14 years is still too young to participate.

Inform your child that people do lie on the Internet~A child can be so naive as to believe that everybody means well and most people do, but we’re not concerned about most people. We are focused on the individuals that are specifically on social networking sites for the explicit purpose of exploiting, even harming our children. Online even a child molester will be nice to them only to manipulate them later. It is very disturbing that we must be this blunt with our kids but it is absolutely necessary to talk about the fact that this does happen all the time but there are risks.

Show your child how to present themselves online~In their sincerity, children can post things on the Internet that can cause them embarrassment and make them targets for their peer and potential predators online, especially when it comes to photographs. There have been cases of children posting very sensual images of themselves online with the intent of making more friends, but this is dangerous and must never happen – talking and role modeling are key. An excellent rule is to share with them the experience of posting their favorite vacation or sporting photos to share with friends and family while having a conversation about not posting anything they would not want you or other adults to see.