As parents, we know we have to monitor our children closely, especially their online activity. With adolescents and teenagers now posting their every move online, this can really pose a challenge for parents.
Seemingly harmless information, like excitedly announcing a family dinner at a favorite Chinese restaurant, isn’t just a cause for celebration– it can actually endanger your family. That’s because any time your child posts an update on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or similar social network sites– some of which list a person’s current location– it can notify potential thieves that no one is at the home.
Sound extreme? Think about it this way:
- How close is your child with all those Twitter “followers” or “friends” on Facbeook?
- Does your child know for a fact that all of those people won’t mention the info to anyone else, even innocently?
- Does this “friend” have brothers, sisters or acquaintances who can access their social accounts and find out info on you?
- Are these brothers, sisters and acquaintances also 100% trustworthy?
Take the case of a 17-year-old Australian teenager. In May of this year she posted a large sum of money on her Facebook page, showing her “friends” all the money she and her grandmother had found cleaning out her house. Within hours, two armed robbers showed up at the home where the girl’s mother and brother lived, demanding the money they had seen posted on her page. The mother eventually convinced the robbers the girl didn’t live there anymore, and they left after taking cash and a few other items from the home.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you should live in fear or ban your child from having fun on these sites. You just need to follow some simple precautions.
SET GROUND RULES
Before your child sets up any account, explain how posting information like birth date, address, phone number or similar personal information may seem harmless, but that predators and hackers can use it to cause trouble. Also, let them know what is or isn’t acceptable when posting photos.
SET SAFETY SETTINGS
Go through the settings and block apps. This prevents your child’s Facebook friends from sharing personal information about him/her using apps. Make sure wall posts can only be viewed by friends, and if people put something on your child’s wall or tag them in a photo, he or she has to approve it before it appears there.
To do a thorough check, Google your child’s name and see what comes up. This can alert you to issues such as cyber-bullying that your child may not think about. Act out possible scenarios, so your child has a game plan on how to react if one occurs.
Finally, set aside a time each week to review your child’s page. And, if they’ve broken any of the rules you set up, or changed any of the privacy settings, feel free to deactivate their account. This won’t delete the account (But you can do that, too.), it will just give your child a “time out” from posting until they’ve learned their lesson. And, if they haven’t, the delete option is always open to you.
Worried your child may have created a second account without telling you? Check the internet browser’s history to see where they’ve been online. It will often list the other profiles and give you a clue.