Where has the time gone? Your kiddo is upright, talking in sentences, and can't get off their various devices... While so many of us work hard to pry these things away from them, we also must acknowledge that the landscape of communication, even for our younger children, is changing. That's why it's crucial that we redefine what "Stranger Danger" means in the context of virtual social interaction.
Who is online?
As of mid 2018, 4.2 billion people around the world access the internet. That's around 55% of the 7.6 billion world population! Of those 4.2 billion internet users, 2.77 billion use social media. That's a ton of people communicating online! While social media can be an incredibly convenient way to keep in touch with family and friends, find a job, it can also be a way to meet some not-so-well-intentioned characters.
As adults, we are better equipped to handle these seedy situations, often even if the person is disguised as someone harmless, but our children are more susceptible to being too trusting. With popular shows like Catfish (pictured above) shedding light on how easy and common online trickery is, now is 1000% the time to sit your child down for a quick conversation about staying safe.
How to stay safe?
1. Know the App
Each social media application has a completely different set of nuances to it that may seem foreign to you, but are second nature to your child. Educate yourself and keep track of updates (they come often)! Some popular apps are:
Instagram- Photo Sharing
Facebook- Social Networking
Twitter- Social Networking
Snapchat- Multimedia Messaging
WhatsApp- Voice Over and Messaging
Twitch- Live Streaming
Periscope- Live Streaming
YouTube- Video Sharing
Reddit- Content Sharing/Discussion
Tik Tok- Video Sharing
2. Know your Child
People often have somewhat of an alternate personality on social media and that includes your child. Without bombarding them with stalker-like behavior, just open up a dialogue to ensure that they are using sound judgement with what they post. We like to remind our children that once something is out there, it's out there for good, and they have a sneaky way of catching up to you!
3. Privacy, Privacy, Privacy
Another conversation that we like to have with our kiddos is about privacy. True privacy is hard to come by in the world of social media, but many apps have settings that make things a little easier. We recommend making sure those are turned on for your kiddo! This is a good time to remind them not to share any personal information online with anyone!
4. Read the Fine Print
Lots of apps use tracking nowadays to keep tabs on their demographic and learn how to better serve their users. Much of it is harmless data gathering, but sometimes, it's not. The prickly situation here is who has time to read all of those terms and conditions? YOU DO! :)
5. Keep an Eye on Mobile Settings
Many apps utilize your phone's location settings for your convenience, and they even ask permission first, but a few actually automatically share them (we're looking at you Snapchat). Just head over to the settings on your child's phone and make sure that they are only sharing what is necessary for their safety (mobile location is key for law enforcement in emergencies).
6. Choose a Strong Password
Hackers just love social media because people post their private lives and personal information and protect it with a simple password that they use for every account.
Make sure your child knows how and when to report suspicious or inappropriate online behavior in each of the social media apps that they use. It's also important that you let them know that it's okay for them to come to you if they are concerned as well.
There you have it! Stay safe out there, folks. It's a big world and we are more connected than ever. If you ever have concerns about your child's safety or behavior, our pediatricians are here to offer their judgement-free advice. Remember, we are parents too!