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Geek Girl Report: Protecting Against Predators And Cyberbullies – How To Keep Your Kids Safe On Social Media Sites

Sean Gallup, Getty Images

In many of my Geek Girl Reports, I sing the praises of social media. I like to talk about how it’s a great tool to connect with others, whether it’s for personal use or business use. But let’s take off the rose-colored glasses for a second and be honest here, social media can be a very dangerous place, especially for kids and teenagers.

Unaware teens and children can easily become prey to online predators pretending to be their friends, or they can fall victim to cyberbullying, like the recent case of Rebecca Sedwick out of Florida. But there are some things you can do as a parent to help protect your kids against these dangers. All it takes is a little research, a little initiative, and a little communication.

1.) Get educated on social media

Kids generally know more about technology than their parents do, whether it’s telling Dad how to hook up that new sound system or, in my case, showing Mom how to send me an E-mail. But social media is one of those things that you really need to have more expertise on than your kids. Before you let your kids log on to social media, get educated on it yourself.

If you’re not already on Facebook, Twitter or whatever social media site your kids are interested in, sign up and make an account yourself. Get familiar with the layout and the mechanics of the site, and more importantly, familiarize yourself with the privacy settings. A friend of mine told me once that even though he doesn’t have a child yet, he’s learning all he can about social media sites now so that when the time comes, he’ll know much more about it than his kids will. A great example to follow.

2.) Talk to your child about the dangers of social media

One of the most important things you can do to protect your kids from online dangers is also one of the easiest things you can do: talk to them. Talk to your kids about being responsible online and how to use social media appropriately. Talk about the very real dangers of cyberbullying and online predators.

Talk about how important it is that they keep their personal information private and not tell everyone where they are every second of every day. Talk to them about how anything they post on the Internet stayson the Internet, no matter how embarrassing or inappropriate it may be. You may even want to come up with a contract or a set of rules for your kids to abide by when they’re on social media. I cannot stress how important it is to maintain an open and honest line of communication with your kids, especially when it comes to online safety. It’s the easiest and most effective means you have of keeping your kids safe.

3.) Monitor your child’s social media use

Sometimes, your kids won’t be too keen on letting you know what they’re up to on Facebook. So if the situation calls for it, you may have to take matters into your own hands and keep an eye on their activity yourself. This is another good reason to get on social media yourself: not necessarily to spy on your kid’s social media account, but more to let your kids know that you’re there and you’re watching.

And it doesn’t just stop at the site. If you suspect your child if doing something inappropriate on social media, get on their computer and check their account out for yourself. Some people I know even keep their computer in a public place, like the living room or the kitchen, so then can easily monitor everyone’s activity. Sure, your kids may cry foul if you restrict their online activity, but the way I see it is this: it is not a parent’s job to be their kid’s best friend, it’s their job to be a parent and to keep their kids safe.

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