While most have a Facebook “Friend List” or an Instagram “Following” that consists of people known in real life, that list might also extend to people who share a common interest with whom we have only a passing acquaintance, or whom we have never met at all. An important point to remember for everyone, young and old, when posting personal information on a social media is that that information is available to all those on one’s Friend/Following List. This becomes particularly important when that poster is a young teen. As a general rule, the minimum age to create a profile on most social media websites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.) is 13 years old (a target age for online predators and pedophiles). In addition to the relative youth of a poster this age, there is an issue that it is not very difficult to create an alternate persona that could mask the true identity and intent of a predator.
Here are a few basic ideas to make your children’s experience on social media a safer one:
- Require your child to keep their profile private and limit the amount of information they can post to that profile.
- Create your own profile, if you do not already have one, friend/follow your child and monitor their who has access to viewing their page, what people may be tagging your child in and what information your child is sharing his/her social media platform.
- Stay informed and up to date on the tactics and methods individuals may use to seek out and take advantage of a vulnerable youth. Predators will go to great lengths to establish contact; it is important that parents match that effort.
- Open a conversation with your child and discuss the potential danger that could arise from interacting on any social networking site or on the Internet in general.
Those topics of discussion could include:
- The absolute requirement to keep their profile private and to be sure of who they are following.
- Posting pictures creates an additional danger. A survey conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl.com found that 22% of all teen girls and 11% of teen girls between the ages of 13 and 16 have sent, or posted online, nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves. Predators and pedophiles prowl these sites looking for potential victims, opening the door to any number of dangers. Even a few seemingly innocent photos of a party attended or a fun day out at a park could alert the attention of a predator.
- The use of the location services allows your child to tag wherever he or she is at a given time of posting a picture. Advertising where you are, whom you are with, or if you are alone grants an opportunity for contact that a predator might seize upon. Your teen should be made aware of this danger and that it might not be an appropriate application for their use at this time.
The best advice is probably the simplest, be aware, talk to your child and monitor their activity. Be in the know to make your child’s experience on social media a safe one.