Protecting Your Kids From Social Media Scams
Having a social media account is close to non-negotiable these days. Whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or LinkedIn — if you want to stay connected with family and friends, social media is the way to go.
Unfortunately, social media has also put unprecedented pressure on children and teenagers to be online, all the time. Without a social media account, they risk missing out on social interactions with friends and can feel left out of conversations and events.
For many parents, this is not a strong enough reason to allow their children to sign up to these platforms — which is fair enough. For all it’s benefits, social media can be a dangerous environment for young teenagers and children, who don’t understand that not everyone online wants to be their friend.
With that in mind, all parents need to be aware of both the benefits and drawbacks of allowing their children to access Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Being informed is the first step to making appropriate, collaborative decisions that safeguard kids’ online safety without alienating teenagers from their peers.
Benefits Of Social Media
Social media websites are created to connect people with the outside world. Apart from growing our circle of friends and acquaintances, these platforms offer many other benefits to young people:
- Social media can be used to make and maintain friendships with like minded peers, across the world.
- Using social media builds digital literacy in young people, which is a vital life-long skill.
- Many families who are split across a country (or indeed, the world) use social media to maintain contact. It’s a particularly good tool for grandparents who don’t get to see their grandchildren very often.
- Social media can be a very creative environment which encourages children to share their favourite musicians, movies, books and other forms of media.
Downsides Of Social Media
Despite its numerous benefits, social media has unfortunately become a hub for individuals who wish to engage in harmful and predatory behaviour. It’s important that parents remain aware of the risks of social media, which can include:
- Being exposed to inappropriate content.
- Uploading inappropriate content. Children and teenagers often don’t understand the risks of such behaviour and fail to see long-term consequences of sharing personal information online and with others.
- Sharing personal information with strangers that puts children at risk of identity theft or being victim to exploitation.
- Cyber bullying is rife on social media, particularly amongst younger users who feel that they can say anything they want as there are no adults around to monitor their behaviour.
- Children are always at increased risk of social media scams as they can’t necessarily pick up on warning signs and manipulative behaviour.
Protect And Empower Your Kids
Making sure your kids are informed about online risks and are able to make decisions in their own best interests is a fantastic way through which you can set them up to be life-long, responsible social media users. Consider the following tips when discussing social media usage with your children:
- Set clear boundaries on the they can sign up to and the amount of time they can spend online each day.
- Make your children aware of their digital footprint. They may think they are just sharing a photo with their friends and followers but they need to be aware that content, once posted online, is very difficult to remove. There can be long term consequences for their actions.
- Explain that they should treat everyone they encounter online as if they would in real life. Cyberbullying is a serious offence and they should immediately report any harmful behaviour they witness online to a trusted adult.
- Educate them that personal information such as a home address, current location, and username and password should be kept confidential.
- Teach them to create strong passwords and regularly update their login credentials.
- Encourage them to talk and connect with only people they know in real life.
- Explain to them that as a parent, you need to be aware of their online activity. Whilst you are not trying to pry on their social life, it is your responsibility to ensure they are safe and behaving in a responsible manner.
Above all — communication key. Make safe internet practises an ongoing topic of conversation in order to protect your kids’ online safety and reduce the likelihood of them falling victim to a social media scam or any other type of dangerous online activity.