Parents Best Practices to Social Media Security

As connected as kids are today, it can be a full-time job for parents to be aware of everything they’re doing online. While many kids may seem comfortable with technology and the Internet, we sometimes forget that they’re still learning and may not always be prepared to spot the risks and pitfalls of being constantly connected— especially when it comes to social media.

We’ve put together some helpful tips so that you and your children can enjoy social media more safely.

Educate and Communicate

Educate yourself about social media. Ask your children which sites they are interested in getting an account with. If you don’t have a social media account for that site already, get an account for yourself. Teach yourself the ins and outs of the site that your kids want to use, so you know exactly what they can and cannot do.

Have open conversations with your kids about how to avoid strangers, how to prevent revealing too much about themselves and general Internet safety. Educate them about some of the things mentioned in this article, and what can be a red flag.  Encourage them to come to you for guidance when questionable content or situations come up.

Teach your child to be aware of what’s posted. Just because something is posted and then deleted does not ensure that it is permanently deleted from the Internet. It may not seem like a big deal now, but this can hurt their online reputation as they grow into adulthood and eventually enter college, and then the job market. Be aware of their “Googleability.” Have you ever Googled yourself or your child? If not, you should, just so you can be aware of what personal information is out there. Do this from time to time to be aware of new things that may pop up over the years.

It’s also important for your kids to know that social networking sites may be giving away more personal information than they realize. Many social media sites provide information such as real names, the child’s age, their school’s name and the city that they live in.

Safety First

Advise your child to never approve friend requests or add people that they do not know in real life. There is a relatively new form of cyberstalking known as Catfishing. The user can set up a fake profile and pose as someone else (most likely, another child) to try to engage contact with your child. Educate yourself about Catfishing and cyberstalking, and then teach your child what red flags to be on the lookout for. Be sure that they know never to meet anyone in person that they have only met online.

Avoid questionnaires, “free” giveaways and contests. These can sometimes be phishing scams that will try to trick your child into giving away personal information about themselves, or will try to inject malware onto your computer. Educate yourself about phishing scams, and if your child really wants to enter the contest, review it first and make sure that it is legitimate.

Personalizing social media status updates with a live location taken from a mobile device’s GPS has become hugely popular. While tagging posts or photos with a location can be fun for kids, it’s problematic for parents who’d rather their child’s precise whereabouts weren’t broadcast to the world. To avoid this, go into the settings menu on your child’s device and disable location services. This can be done just for specific apps and still allow maps and other genuinely useful tools to access location data.

Another potential pitfall is the use of games and other third-party apps within social networking sites. These apps can share or post information by default without you knowing. Good ones will state clearly that they’ll never post on your behalf; for less well-known or respected apps, consider whether you want your child to allow these apps to access to social media accounts at all.

Set Your Own House Internet Rules

Keep the computer in a common area of your home, such as your living room or kitchen. You can then monitor closely what sites your child is visiting, and they will not be as tempted to visit sites or perform activities they are not allowed to if you’re keeping a watchful eye.

Only allow your child to access the Internet (outside of homework purposes) for a limited, set time each day. Social media sites can be a time suck, and you don’t want your child spending all of their free time on these sites.

Make a deal- if your child wants to join a social media site, request that you have access to their account credentials so you can periodically check in on their activities such as adding suspicious friends, receiving questionable messages or posting questionable content. If the child is an older teen and having full access to their account seems too invasive, require that they add you as a friend so that you can monitor their activities via your own account.

Stick with age appropriate sites. Most social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have an age limit of 13 and older. Some of these sites have additional security settings for minors as well. Facebook (link is external), for example, automatically imposes stricter privacy settings than what it uses for adults, so be sure your child is using the correct birth date upon signup. Twitter allows an option for a user’s account to be private; therefore the user approves all follow requests. In addition to these safeguards, you should always review the privacy settings on your child’s profile.

Parental Controls

A simple way to add an extra layer of safety is to sign up for a free Norton Family account. It shows you when your child registers for a social media account from their PC, and the name and age they use on their profile. Upgrading to Norton Family Premier gives you insights into your child’s Android mobile device activities, too, letting you choose which apps they can use—even allowing you to turn off access to Facebook or YouTube.

Teach Your Kids to Avoid Online Scams

Surfing the Internet means possible exposure to online scams, something your children might not have any concept of. If you’re allowing them to go online, it’s imperative that you discuss online scams. Such scams come in a variety of guises, including those that specifically target children.

Let’s look at how to best protect your kiddies from those who would scam them:

Educate Yourself First

The first step in protecting your children from online scams is to educate yourself on the types of scams currently floating around the Internet. One type of scam is the free trial offer, which claims to offer, for example, free one-month trials of some “amazing” product. The fine print of these scams includes terms stating that after the trial period, you’ll be paying for the product once a month…forever.

“These guys are really shrewd,” says Christine Durst, an Internet fraud expert and consultant for the FBI and the FTC. “They know that most people don’t read all the fine print before clicking on ‘I agree,’ and even people who glance at it just look for numbers. So the companies spell out the numbers, with no dollar signs; anything that has to do with money or a time frame gets washed into the text.”

Other examples of Internet scams include faux Wi-Fi hotspots; social media and email messages indicating you’ve won an expensive prize or should enter a contest to win an expensive prize; and bogus pop-ups warning of supposed viruses and malware. The latter scam often looks like legitimate antivirus programs, but what you’re doing to “fix” your computer is actually infecting it with a virus.

Unfortunately, these are merely some of the many online scams that exist, so be sure to do your homework.

Learning the Signs

Once you feel secure in your knowledge of Internet scams, it’s time to pass this information on to your kids. Educating them about indicators of scams is important, with typical signs including:

Errors
Many Internet scams are rife with grammatical and spelling errors. If you receive messages laden with such errors about a “great deal” or contest, it’s probably a scam, even if it comes from a “friend.” However, there are plenty of Internet scams that contain flawless wording, as it’s one of the ways scammers make their messages look legitimate.

Foreign Offers
Messages from “foreign princes” claiming you need to help them transfer thousands of dollars, and simply have to pay the $150 wiring fee to enjoy a cut of the money, are now-classic online scams.

Emotional Manipulation
Manipulating emotions is another common scammer trick. Financial stress, loneliness, and frustration are examples of the emotional problems scammers prey on. They might not ask for money, but will insist on personal information, which they will then use to steal identities.

Talent Searches
“Kids talent searches” are types of scams that target children specifically. These scams might suggest that a child joins a particular modeling agency or accepts an invitation for a screen test. They may seem real at first but always ask for money to continue “working” with the agency.

Scholarship Scams
Another scam that targets children is scholarship scams. They claim to be recognizing children for academic achievement but, as with talent scams, require paying significant upfront fees.

Communication

When it comes to recognizing scams, keep communication open and clear with your children. Stress that they should always come to you about any suspicious messages or pop-ups they receive, and regularly discuss online scam signs if Internet usage is a big thing in your house. Scammers rely on children’s innocence, so consider limiting computer time in your home until you’re certain the kids are scam-savvy enough.