The Internet is a dangerous place, as an adult you face online security risks every time you log on. But our children are even more vulnerable to false promises and threats.
Being anonymous behind the screen gives children a false sense of security, just like Superman they swoop through the web without any fear. But cybercriminals are on virtually every website and social network, especially sites like Facebook and Instagram. Keeping our children safe whilst using the Internet and social networks comes down to how well we explain the dangers that exist in every corner of cyberspace.
Here is a parental guide to ensure your children stay safe online on social media:
Parents need to learn first
Parents and guardians must first learn and research which social networks are appropriate for their children and how they work. It's important to understand the difference between Snapchat and Instagram, for each network has different benefits and risks.
Set age restrictions
Keep in mind that almost every social network requires a minimum age, which usually has its reason. Currently (as of May 2018) the minimum age of WhatsApp is 16 years and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are 13 years old. For most other social media channels, the age limit is country-specific. Your children should be aware at what age they can begin to access social networking sites.
Avoid computers, laptops and tablet use in the bedrooms. By placing devices in a central location, such as the living room or kitchen, gives you a better view of your child's social media activity and time spent in front of a screen. Children also generally avoid inappropriate behavior online, if they know their parents are watching.
Create guidelines for social networks
Children must have set rules for using social networks. As parents you must first decide how much screen time per day your children are allowed. A complete ban might not advisable, as Internet and social networks are already part of everyday life for many and they may feel excluded. But a time limit is advisable.
Clearly communicate the dangers of social networks
Children (and teenagers) generally have no idea how easy it is to access their information on social networks. This makes them vulnerable to online predators. In addition, most children also do not understand the impact of their words in posts online. Therefore the most important part of the parental guide for social networks is telling your children how they can make others feel and the impact it can have on themselves.
Stay on top of the privacy settings on social networks
As a parent you need to find a balance between control and support. It’s a thin line between giving your children too much freedom on social networks to watching every step they make on Facebook. However, what you should definitely do is check the privacy settings regularly and allow as little information as possible. A publicly visible telephone number or even address has no place at Facebook & Co.
Social networking sites provide children with a powerful tool to interact with friends and family. Therefore, as a parents your most important job is to set a good example on how to interact on social networks.
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