DECEMBER 8, 2021
On the first day of school, you’ll likely snap back-to-school pics of your child to commemorate the start of their new school year. You’ll probably also keep your phone handy while on vacation to capture all those family memories. And who can forget posed pics before homecoming or prom? Of course you’ll want to share those photos on your social media channels, but if you do, keep in mind that your friends and family may not be the only ones viewing those images.
However, taking key precautions can go a long way in protecting your family and home. That's why we’ve compiled a list of social media safety tips for younger kids, teens, and parents while allowing you to stay on top of cybersecurity.
Most parents are aware that they should monitor their kids’ social media usage and digital footprint. However, many of us forget to double check whether our actions could have accidentally put us at risk. Below are some tips you can follow to check that you are keeping yourself safe and teaching your kids to do the same:
Watch out for information that was shared accidentally: Seemingly insignificant actions, such as posting a picture that contains your kids’ school bus in the background, can create a trail of virtual breadcrumbs. Details like kids’ bus number, visible street signs, school name or logo, or even a shot with easily identifiable buildings can offer predators clues about your family’s whereabouts and places you frequently visit.
Watch out for online quizzes. How many times have you entered personal preferences, such as your favorite place to visit or what you like to do for fun, via an online form to find out your “destiny”? Those little questionnaires are fun, but online sites also are aggregating data about you — and, potentially, your family.
Avoid geotagging. Tagging the location or username of that cool new coffee shop you visited, city you’re vacationing in, or your kids’ new school is definitely exciting. However, using these tags can not only disclose that you’re not home, but can also give insights into where you are at that moment. While home monitoring systems can help your home stay protected from home intruders, make sure you’re also staying safe while you’re on the go by not sharing your specific whereabouts.
Show children how to set share settings. Before you (or your teen) click “Post,” make sure to customize your account’s privacy settings. Social media platforms usually allow you to create lists of close connections so that you only share images with a select group of friends and family. Doing this will reduce the risk of the pictures ending up in the wrong hands.
Check your privacy settings frequently. Social media sites change their privacy and sharing policies often, so periodically make sure your privacy settings remain up to date and only reach your intended audience. Additionally, these platforms sometimes experience bugs that can compromise your privacy without your knowledge. For instance, in 2018, a suspected Facebook bug potentially switched millions of worldwide posts to “public” without notifying users. To ensure you’re protected, remember to do a monthly check for any bugs or policy changes associated with your social media and file-storage apps.
Understand that your information is vulnerable even after safety settings are set. Privacy settings and bug checks are a good safeguard, but they’re not a guarantee. Even if you take all the precautions like limiting your audience, avoiding photo tags, and not giving away identifying information, your account may still be hacked or information accidentally leaked. You can avoid these issues by treating every piece of information as if it would be public in the first place.
There are many good things about kids and teens engaging in social media. They’re able to stay connected with friends and family, give money to nonprofit organizations, and learn more about their world and aspirations. However, statistics show that over one third of teens report having been contacted by strangers online. As such, it’s important to educate your kids and teens about staying safe online from the start. Some of our top tips follow:
Avoid posting personal information. Remind kids that publishing tidbits like their birthday, interests, the name of your school, or their favorite hangout can give clues as to who they are, where they live, and what they like to do.
Understand cyberbullying. Cyberbullying and blackmailing are a new challenge that kids unfortunately face in this new digital era. Teach your kids about the resources available to them when they are faced with these issues, and always remind them that they don’t need to share photos or perform actions that they are not comfortable with simply because someone online has told them to.
Know the permanency of posting. Talk to your kids about how comments, posts, and even private messages are not gone just because they delete them. We often train our kids to think about this in terms of protecting their reputation, since posts and photos can come back to haunt them years later when they apply to colleges or jobs. However, we should also remind our kids that sharing things like their birthdays, home towns, and other information on social media or un-trustworthy sites should also be avoided to ensure they remain safe in the years to come.
Steer clear of strangers. Teach your kids the importance of privacy and how not everyone online should be “friended.” Ask them to double check with you and other trusted adults before accepting friend requests, even if they have mutual friends or other things in common with the person.
It’s always a good idea to add to your digital security with physical security. Consider installing indoor and outdoor security cameras that link up with your Brinks Home™ Mobile App, so you can monitor your home and children remotely. You can also incorporate a video doorbell, so you and your kids can see who is on the other side of the door before opening it. Visit the Brinks Home website or blog to learn more about home safety, including products to protect your family.
Allison Clark is a senior writer for Brinks Home. She enjoys educating others on the benefits of smart home security and using technology to simplify everyday life.
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