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5 Dangers of Social Media to Discuss With Your Kids

Here's what you need to know about keeping your child safe online.

With so many computer applications out there and data available at the touch of a screen, you may not realise all the potential dangers of social media facing your children. Children nowadays have their whole lives documented online, even from before they are born. The ramifications of this can be far-reaching, which is why it's good to educate yourself and set guidelines for your family.

Here are five dangers of social media you'll want to talk about with your kids:
 

  1. "Stranger danger" - Take it seriously
    Children may find it hard to judge strangers they meet in person, and it's even harder to tell friends from foes online. Parents must keep up -to-date with the apps their kids are using and what it is that these apps do.

    Stress to your kids that they should not interact with strangers on these apps, and explain that many people on social media are not who they say they are. You should also monitor your kids' Internet usage to ensure their interactions are only with real-life friends.
     
  2. (Over) Sharing information - Don't reveal too much 
    Children should be aware of how much they are revealing about themselves online.

    It is important that your children do not share their location or use apps that let people track their movements. Discuss the dangers of revealing too much information on social media, explaining that it gives ammunition to strangers with bad intentions.

    Also, avoid bypassing age restrictions for kids, and adhere to the terms of service for social media applications. For example, Facebook does not allow anyone under the age of 13 to create an account.
     
  3. Hidden info in photos - Beware of posting pics
    Children should know the potential risks of what they're posting online. Photographs are no exception. It is important that children don't send photographs unless they're 100 percent sure it is a friend they're communicating with. Photos contain EXIF data -- information about the camera you took the photo with which means the receiver can trace where the photo was taken. With young children, it's better to restrict the use of photos on social media or make use of the parental controls many applications possess. Parents of primary and secondary school age children  should discuss the fact that photographs contain location information, which could potentially help a stranger find them.
  4. The staying power of social media - Consider the future
    Children need to fully grasp that what is posted on social media can have long-term consequences. What may seem like a funny joke at the time could potentially be accessed later by colleges and employers.
     
  5. Cyberbullying - Ask, "will others get hurt?"
    Try writing a list of rules about social media usage, discussing them with your kids and posting them near the computer. This checklist should include these questions: "Is this going to hurt someone's feelings? How would I feel if this message came to me? Does this feel threatening in any way?" Talk to your children about bullying and enforce the idea of not joining friends who are gossiping about or teasing others online.

If you have a babysitter or childminder make sure they know what online and social media rules your children should be following.

Text source: Lauren B. Stevens is a freelance writer, whose work can be found on The Huffington Post  and  Scary Mommy.  

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