CROMWELL, Conn. (WTNH) — A new generation is about to wade into the waters of the internet, and experts say it’s up to parents to teach their kids how to stay safe online.
“It is concerning as a parent to have your child out on social media,” said Cindy Cassidy of Oakdale, Conn.
Her daughter Katie just graduated eighth grade, but like many young kids, she’s already been using social media for a few years.
“I think as she’s gotten older and become more exposed to social media, that’s now when I get a little bit more concerned, because there’s more out there than I’m even aware of — that I even think she’s aware of,” Cassidy said.
That’s why Howard Schwartz, the executive communications director of the Connecticut Better Business Bureau in Cromwell, Conn., says there are key steps every parent should take to keep their kids protected online. The first is to create their accounts for them.
“The benefit of creating their account is to make sure the password is secure, and of course that you can have access to it,” Schwartz explained.
It’s also important to monitor your child’s activities.
“From the moment your child turns on the computer at home, watch what they’re doing,” Schwartz said.
“She uses our computer in our office, which is wide open,” Cassidy said of her daughter Katie. “Does she bring it in her bedroom and close her door? Of course she does. But we are knocking on the door periodically.”
Social media is all about sharing, but Schwartz says parents should set limits on how much their kids can post.
“The less information the better,” Schwartz explained. “You don’t want a stranger to be able to identify where you live, or where the child goes to school.”
“That’s something that we’ve really put into both of our girls heads, is to make sure that when you’re out there you’re not out there to anyone beyond who you want to see your information,” Cassidy said.
To make sure your child’s information is secure, it’s vital to check privacy settings.
“In some cases adults who have social media profiles don’t even check their own privacy settings,” Schwartz said. “So you should learn those and check them out on these accounts before you open them for your child.”
Another reason it’s vital to keep those photos private? Some contain GPS coordinates that can reveal exact location a photo was taken. Lastly, Schwartz says keep the lines of communication open.
“The most important connection is not the connection to the internet,” Schwartz said. “It’s the connection between you and your child, to make sure they’re speaking to you about what’s going on online so that if they are being bullied or they see someone else being bullied they should be reporting it to you rather than being embarrassed or ashamed.”