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Exercising Social Media Safety

There is no doubt that our world is much more digitally complicated than it once was, and as each generation of kids grows up with unlimited internet and social media access, they become more tech-savvy. Growing up in a digitally connected world can have its benefits, but like everything else, it can also have serious consequences. From predators, cyberbullying and harmful exposure, a child's social media handling can come with serious risks.

Managing your child's social media presence can be challenging, but parents must remain vigilant regarding their kid's safety and exposure while online. If your child is asking to use or is already using social media, here are steps to be proactive with their social media safety.

First, educating yourself on the latest social apps and sites for kids and teens is essential as a parent. Find out what kind of apps and sites your child is interested in and familiarize yourself with the apps' reviews, age limits, privacy policy and fine print. Review each site's safety, blocking and reporting resources. Remember, if an app has an age limit, don't ignore it, there is probably a good reason why it does. Here are some of the current most popular social media apps:

If you don't have an account on any social media sites your child wants to use, get one. This way, you can friend or follow your kids and periodically monitor their social media activity. Check the privacy setting on your child's account and ensure their profiles are private. Go into their settings and disable location services. Another thing to remember is that even though your child's profiles are set to private, it will not prevent them from seeing what others post. To help your child avoid being exposed to inappropriate content online, consider using a security software with built-in parental controls on your child's device.

Next, it is essential to talk with your child about what is an acceptable and respectable post. Talk with them about the effects of cyberbullying and the mental health of others when posting online. Remind them that just because you delete a post does not mean it is gone for good. All online posts, including comments, likes and shares, can't be taken back once they are sent and will remain part of their digital footprint. Let them know the risk they impose on their reputation when posting online. Teach kids not to share anything they wouldn't want their future bosses to see on social media.

Educate your children on online safety practices that they can use. Inform your child never to accept friend requests or add people they don't know in real life. Follow the rule, "if you don't know them, don't friend them." Ensure they know to never meet with anyone they have met online in person and educate them on what "catfishing" is. Another topic to educate your children on is the revealing of personal information. Let them know when how much personal information is too much information online and never divulge confidential information to strangers online. Also educate them on how to identify scams and schemes they may encounter on the internet. Remind them never to enter a contest without asking your permission first.

Finally, set ground rules in your household for your children to follow. Setting up rules in your home not only keeps your child safe but may also relieve some stress from monitoring social media. Remember that every child and household is different, and what may work for others may not work for you.

For more government resources regarding child safety on the internet, click here.

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