“When we were growing up, our parents were able to monitor our social activity by observing our interactions: reading a letter, listening to a phone call, or watching a social interaction at a house or gathering. Fast forward to present day. Now we are parents, and monitoring our children's social interactions is a whole lot more complicated than listening to the conversation they are having on the phone in the next room.”
Social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr, to name a few, can introduce an overwhelming learning curve for anyone new to the scene. So why should you, the parent, take the time to understand how these platforms work? Why should you understand how your child uses these social networks?
What You Don’t Know, CAN Hurt You
When your child is online, they are talking, sharing and engaging with friends, family and strangers. Not knowing how your child uses social networks, what information they are sharing online, and who they are talking to can be a dangerous mix. The danger lies in the transfer of information, how easily that information can be obtained and how easily it can be hidden.
Have you ever seen the parent that walks around with blinders on, listening to the angry stories their friends and other parents share about their child's deception, but not thinking critically about his/her own child?
No one will ever admit his or her child is the bully. For your sake, your child is an angel and would never keep anything from you, or abuse the freedom you have given them online or off.
This is strictly a resource on how it is possible to obscure one’s digital footprint:
- Clear browser history
- Close/minimize browser when parent walks in
- Hide or delete instant messages or videos
- Lie or omit details about online activities
- Use a computer parents don't check
- Use an Internet-enabled mobile device
- Use privacy settings to make certain content viewable only by friends
- Use private browsing modes
- Create private email addresses unknown to parents
- Create duplicate/fake social network profiles
The Bad Apples
Can your child distinguish the difference between a friend or foe online? It is crucial to share with them the importance of understanding not everyone is who he or she says they are. The person on the receiving end of your child’s online interaction might be another kid, an inmate, your insurance agent, you just don’t know.
Sex offenders, pedophiles, groomers and just plain bad people create fake online profiles to gain information about users all the time. You can easily do an online search and find unfortunate information on those who have fallen victim to these people. It is important to recognize the vulnerability that can occur online with a simple conversation with a stranger. Kids are gullible, and they haven’t been exposed to many of the evils of the world. Someone tells them, “Hey! I’m your friend!” and kids will believe them. That’s where the danger lies.
Don’t share Personal Identifiable Information (PII):
- Home address
- Phone number
- Full name (especially in Usernames)
- Name of school
- Names of close friends
- Pictures or videos of themselves
These simple preventive measures can help lay a foundation of safety as you explore the online world with your child.
School + Social Networks = Good!
Social networking sites present students, your child with the opportunity to connect with others when they are focusing on educational topics, sharing resources, working on assignments, and engaging with school activities. This connection between students via social networking sites appears to inspire collaborative learning and promote student engagement.
George Middle School in Portland, Oregon has created its own school social networking site.
The Numbers Are Out:
- Students grades have increased by 50%
- Chronic absenteeism went down 33%
- Extra credit voluntarily completed increased by 20%
Source: Social Networking
What Can You Do?
You might think to yourself, “I’m just not going to let my kid on to these sites so I don’t have to worry”. Wrong answer. Rather than restricting your child’s access to these social networks (they will find a way whether you like it or not), there are solutions to help you maintain your sanity and peace of mind as your child plays in the “digital sandbox”.
It’s a matter of knowing your options and asking the right questions:
- Does their account prevent them from sharing specific information?
- What sites provide preventive and profanity filtering?
- Do you have control over the filter?
- Does the site provide online moderation?
- Will it alert me when specific information is shared?
- What sites offer these tools or provide these solutions?
Inversoft has developed a solution with these specific questions in mind. CleanSpeak provides website owners, community managers and moderators the tools to keep a watchful eye over the same online games, communities, forums, blogs and social networks your child enjoys on a regular basis. CleanSpeak’s Intelligent Profanity Filter and Moderation Tools provide the ability to filter unwanted content, track, store and alert you or a moderator on your child’s activity.
The Missing Piece: You
Educate. You need to be the one willing to walk along this path with your child. To learn, engage, promote and instill the qualities and characteristics that you wish to see in them as they progress. Teaching your child to be conscious of their interactions and the information shared online protects not just you, but the safety of your child.