To protect kids against social media predators, it's important to educate them on potential warning signs. Let them know a predator may try to reach out to them on a social media site, asking them for personal data, photos, and common places where they hang out. That individual may be posing as an online friend or chatting on a video game.
Strongly urge kids to block anyone they don't know on social media who attempt to get personal information, to discuss sexual topics, or to try and meet in person, and never follow up with them. You should also make sure your child feels comfortable sharing with you when they are contacted.
Be proactive in protecting your kids from common social media threats. Let them know what is allowable and what is not allowable up front before they regularly engage others on social media.
1. Establish Security Settings
This will help restrict the sharing of a child's personal data and other sensitive information on social media sites. (Read more here for tips on helping your child manage their social media privacy settings.) Do this not only on household computers, but any laptops, tablets, and mobile devices used by a child to access social media sites.
2. Consider Parental Controls and Monitoring
All mainstream computer and mobile operating systems now have parental controls as a feature. These controls can allow parents to place specific time restrictions on when the computer can be used and can restrict access to social media sites based on content ratings.
There are also identity theft protection and social media monitoring products available for parents, such as Experian IdentityWorks which offers various online alerts social privacy and also flags content such as mentions of weapons, alcohol, and drugs, cyberbullying, and grooming.
3. Keep Administrator Settings for the Grown Ups
Don't allow children to have admin access to a computer, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. Keeping control allows the parent or other responsible adults to "lock down" any setting deemed a potential access point for identity thieves trolling social media sites (like restricting your child's ability to install software).
That can greatly reduce the chances of anyone accidentally downloading malware or spyware that may try to capture a child's online personal information.
4. Talk to Them!
By and large, having regular conversations with your kids is one of the best ways to help protect them from social media threats. Let your child know that, while you respect their need for privacy, you also want to ensure their safety.
Keep an open line of communications going with your kids on what protective measures you're using online, and why you're doing it. Nip that threat in the bud by starting early, restricting access, regularly monitoring your kids' social media usage, and knowing the warning signs well enough to know when it's time to step in and take direct action if a social media threat to your child becomes all too real.
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This article was originally published on April 16, 2018, and has been updated.