How to talk with your kids about social media safety

father and son

When it comes to safety online, kids see things differently than adults. Having grown up with the Internet, many kids feel perfectly comfortable sharing personal information online, whereas many adults cringe at the notion. Parents see Internet restrictions as a rational way to keep safe, but kids see them as rules to keep them from having fun. Basically, kids take the security of the Internet for granted, opting to enjoy themselves now, rather than to protect themselves from future risks.

How do you get kids to think before they share private information? As a parent, you need to talk in terms of what your child understands and sees as relevant. In today’s world, that means discussing online safety using the language of what interests your child. It also means you have to understand the Internet. If your son or daughter thinks you don’t “get it,” it will be difficult to convince him or her that your advice is valid.

This article will offer some tips on how to talk with your kids about social media safety, and how to share with your kids to help them understand that you not only “get it” but that you’re looking out for their best interests.

Start with a strong password

A strong password is the first line of defense against identity theft. Remind your kids that if their password is something their friends can guess, it isn’t strong enough. Here are some password ideas: The ideal password is one that’s easily remembered but hard to guess. Help your child figure out an easy-to-remember mnemonic phrase that combines letters, numbers and symbols. A phrase like “I graduate from high school in 2012” becomes “igfhsi2012.”

Remember, anyone and everyone is watching the Web

Convincing kids that some things don’t belong online can be an uphill battle. Try appealing to their squeamishness by reminding them that what they put online can be seen by anyone. Make them ask themselves: Would I send this picture to my grandmother? Would I talk like this in front of my dad? Your children should be aware that whatever they share online could end up in front of the wrong audience. In order to protect their online reputation, they must always be aware of who might see the content they share online.

Oversharing can be dangerous

Although your kids may think that everything they do is worth sharing online, some things are better left unsaid. Would your teenagers like it if you called them every time you made a sale, went to a meeting or checked your email? Let your kids see how oversharing can be not only annoying but dangerous. This is particularly important when it comes to sharing personal information such as your home address, phone number, birth date, Social Security number and other information that cybercriminals can use to steal your child’s identity.

Upload only appropriate online pictures

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but an online picture of your kids acting inappropriately is more than enough to hurt their chances of getting a summer job or being accepted into their college of choice. Some overeager parents even seek out negative content about other teens so that they can help their own child get ahead. It’s not pretty, but the truth is that your children’s online photos play a huge role in shaping their digital image and are a important part of their online reputation.

Always be there when your kids need you

If your teens do get into trouble online, it’s essential they know they can turn to you. Often, for fear of punishment, teens will hide problems online until they become too big to fix. Talk with your kids early and often, and let them know that if they need help with a situation, they can talk with you. Cyberbullying is an especially critical issue that you need to talk about with your kids. If you keep an open line of communication, your children will be more likely to reach out to you if they’re being harassed or abused online.

Teaching your children to be safe online won’t come automatically. As Internet technology continues to evolve, so too must your efforts to protect your kids online. Remember, you’re their safety net — always there in case they need you.  Learn how to talk with your kids about social media safety, and have that conversation.

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