I was at a networking event last week where there were two single adults talking about their online dating experiences. Hearing their conversation reminded me of the dangers adults and kids face when online.

Social Media Facts:

Everyone is being told that social media ‘is a must’. As business owners, we’re constantly being told we need a social media presence to engage our customers and find new customers.  Our children are feeling peer pressure to use social networking as well.  Connecting with ‘friends’, creating and sharing photos and videos and playing games on these sites have all become important aspects of kids’ lives.

What most people don’t fully understand is that everything they say about themselves in their profile, pictures or words will be available for the world to see; and people do see these pages – strangers, college admissions officers, potential employers…  Kids are savvy enough to post things, but not always mature enough to understand the consequences of doing so.

Unfortunately, there are cases where child predators have hacked into profiles, pretended to be a child’s friend and invited them to meet, along with other friends, behind the mall. This exact scenario happened to a child of a law enforcement officer in Arizona!  People in child trafficking and the sex slave trade set up profiles, posing as young kids. They surf social media sites and pray on innocent, unsuspecting kids; don’t let your child get caught in this!

Here are a few Social Networking Safety Tips for you to discuss with your kids and implement; they’re not just for kids though!

✓  Facebook and other sites won’t let kids create a profile/page if they are younger than 13. 

That being said, kids aren’t stupid, they simply do the math to figure out what year to put so they’ll seem 13 – or older.  Check your computer browser histories! If you see a social networking site, then assume your kids have an account.

✓  Check your kid’s profile.

It is best if they use a ‘stage name’ or nickname, anything other than their real name. Be sure they do not include their phone numbers and an avatar or image is better than their personal photo!

✓  Remind them of the golden rule.

If your children wouldn’t want someone saying it to them, they shouldn’t say it to anyone else. Help eliminate cyber-bullying which is increasingly popular with the youth of our nation!

✓  Tell your kids to think before they post.

Remind them everything they post can be seen by an immense, invisible audience (friends of friends of friends).  Encourage them NOT to use any of the ‘places’ or ‘check in’ applications. These applications post on their ‘wall’ and tell everyone where they are; don’t tip off child predators as to their whereabouts. And, don’t think it can’t happen to your kids!

✓  If they want to meet someone, it had better be in a public place, with you, or at least a friend. 

We would all like to think that our kids wouldn’t meet strangers – but sometimes they do. If your kids want to meet an online friend, let them know that you want to meet that friend, too.

Click here for more online safety tips to help protect yourself and your kids when using social media!