It's clear social networks are here to stay. Most teens (73 percent) now own a smartphone and 92 percent go online every day, according to a new study by the Pew Foundation, so they are able to access the Internet and social networks 24/7, wherever they may be!
According to this study, here is how teens spend their time:
71 percent of teens 13 to 17 use Facebook
52 percent of teens use Instagram
41 percent use Snapchat
33 percent use Twitter
33 percent use Google +
24 percent use Vine
14 percent use Tumblr
(Visit the Cyberwise Learning Hubs to educate yourself about these apps!)
Although the jury is still out on the positive vs. negative influences of social networking on teens, tweens or even younger kids, there are certainly dangers involving their use. Cyberbullying, the posting of private information or images, and other online safety issues should concern you as parents. But the good news is that there are quite a few things you can do to provide a safer social networking experience for your kids:
1. Talk to your kids. This is probably the most important tip on this list, it’s very important that you keep an open dialogue with your kids and discuss the possible dangers of using social networks, such as sharing private information or pictures for the world to see, or cyberbullying. Try to be approachable and not judgmental and explain that they should always let you know if someone or something is making them feel uncomfortable.
2. Set ground rules. Allow a limited time for social networking per day and try to make sure that your kids engage in other activities such as “real life” socializing and physical activities outdoors. It may be a good idea to sign a family online safety contract with your kids outlining the rules for using social networks such as the amount of hours per day or the times of day during which your child can use social networks.
3. Set a good example: If you yourself use social networks, try to set a good example by limiting the amount of time you spend there, befriending only people you know and sharing very little private information.
4. Be skeptical: Explain to your kids that they shouldn’t believe everything they read online. People may post false or misleading information about various topics, including their own identities. This is not necessarily done with malicious intent, but is still something to watch out for.
5. Customize your kids’ privacy options: Make sure your kids don’t share information such as their last name, school, home address, cell phone number, email and IM addresses. Check out the settings, configuration and privacy sections of the social networking programs to see what options you have to limit who and what groups can see various aspects of their personal information. On Facebook, for example, you control whether no one, friends, friends and networks, or everyone can see basic info, personal info, photos, friends and postings.
6. Enable content filtering / parental control: For starters, you can set up parental controls in Windows by selecting that option from the control panel. Or you can go ahead and install an online child safety program such as Surfie.
7. Know your child's password: You'll want to be able to log into his/her account any time and see what's going on. If you're just "friends," your child can configure his/her privacy settings to prevent you from seeing certain things, or even set up a separate account where you are not listed as a friend.
8. Keep your child's physical location private: Disable photo geo-tagging, and configure privacy settings for photo tagging on social networks like Facebook and Instagram.
9. Know their friends: For younger children, their online friends should be friends that you know in real life. For teens, have them explain how they know each friend.
10. Instruct your kids not to use third party applications (apps) shared within the network: Using these apps involves allowing them to access your kids’ private information.