Most kids today have a social media account of some sort and often, they have more than one. Social media can be a great place for teens to
- Keep up with friends and family
- Become active in charitable groups and causes
- Feel less isolated
- Be creative and share ideas
- Keep up with current events
- Develop social skills
While all these things are great benefits of social media, there are also risks that you need to consider. Kids often aren't aware of the consequences of their actions. They don't understand how certain decisions can affect the rest of their lives. Talk to your kids about social media. While they are under your roof social media can be easier to track. But, as your student heads to college, it’s good to remind them again about some of these tips. That way they can make better decisions on their own.
What can kids do?
Be Kind, Be Vigilant: Often times, people forget that they're communicating with other real people. On the other side of the net it's not a screen or a robot. It becomes too easy to forget the humanity of others. Even if you can’t see the face of the person on the receiving end, posting mean or embarrassing messages is just as hurtful as making comments face to face. They need to remember to be kind and vigilant. If you notice suspicious activity, like someone being harassed or bullied, or making you uncomfortable, report it! Most sites have an option to “flag” or “report” inappropriate behavior. If you are the one being rude, be sure to read our next section on reputation.
Reputation: Be aware that everything you post online is permanent and can affect your reputation. Future college admissions officers or potential bosses could be looking at your social media, blog posts, photos, etc. Just because you deleted it, does not mean it is gone permanently. Always think before posting and ask yourself, “What would my parents, grandparents or future employers think about this?”
Privacy: Make sure your privacy settings are set up, so you don’t have strangers viewing your profile information. This also includes making sure you turn off your location services. While yes, it can be convenient at times, it can also give those who want to do you harm, too much information on your whereabouts. You should really think twice about posting those vacation pics as well. Criminals can use this information to gain easy access to your house since they know you are gone.
Don’t interact with people you don’t know: It can be fun to meet new people, but it is very dangerous to do over the internet. It is too easy for people today to pretend they are someone else. It opens the door for predators to enter your life. Only add people that you know, and even if you know them be cautious in determining if they are the “real thing.” Sometimes people can recreate duplicate, fake accounts of people you know. When in doubt, call or ask the person face to face if it is them.
Safeguard Your Passwords: If someone else has your login credentials they can easily sign in as you. They might abuse your account by creating posts, sending messages or sharing photos that you don’t approve of. You have no control over what they do or say. If you need to share a password, share it with your parents or another trusted adult.
What can parents do?
Always be in open communication with your kid. The more open and comfortable they are with you, the more likely they are to talk to you about online advice. You may also want to consider a social media contract that both you and your child sign. Your child would agree to be kind and vigilant. They would also agree to protect their reputation and privacy. Finally, they would agree not give out personal information, or interact with strangers.
As a parent or guardian, you'd agree to respect their privacy. You'd also agree to “friend” them online so you can be a part of their world. Naturally, you'd also agree not make embarrassing comments or posts. You can also include limits and guidelines for social media use or internet use in the contract. Examples of this would be no texting while driving, no phones at the table, device use only permitted in public areas of the house.
Lastly, remember to set a good example for your children. Perhaps part of your social media contract could be that you will follow the same rules. When your child sees that you take it seriously, you gain their respect and they are more likely to trust you.
Contact a Risk Advisor at Hummel Group to learn more.