Social media dangers: 6 rules to keep your kid safe

February 17, 2016
  • 1 / 7

    Telling your pre-teen that she isn’t old enough to use social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook simply doesn’t work (even though the official minimum age for Facebook is 13). After all, she argues, her friends use these sites, and she would feel left out and excluded if she couldn’t take part. You don’t want her to be isolated in the virtual world – which might also lead to her social isolation in the real world – yet you are concerned about how to keep her safe, healthy and secure when she uses such websites.

    If you have decided to allow her to sign up, here are some suggestions to help her find the experience rewarding, safe and fun:

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  • Privacy, not secrecy
    2 / 7 Privacy, not secrecy

    Tell her that you would like to know about everyone she communicates with. Set this as one of the key ground rules: She must not have secret contacts with others you don’t know about. Of course, she’s entitled to privacy, but that’s different from secrecy. And explain that you want to have regular looks at her accounts.

    Related: Allow her some personal space

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  • Behave yourself
    3 / 7 Behave yourself

    Explain to her that everything she posts while online is potentially public and visible to lots of other people. That’s why she should clearly understand that she should post nothing – even to her friends – she wouldn’t say to that person face to face. Children can easily become immersed in the virtual world, so emphasise the importance of behaving towards others in the same way as she would in the real world.

    Related: Why cyber criminals love families with kids – and 3 things you must do to protect your children

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  • Real friends only
    4 / 7 Real friends only

    People can assume false identities when online, and can pretend to be anyone they want. Your child should understand that when she’s on one of these social networks, she should get in touch only with children whom she knows personally, no matter how interesting and exciting that person may sound.

    Related:How to keep your child safe online 

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  • Don't tell
    5 / 7 Don't tell

    Another important rule is that your child should never give out any personal details that could identify her. Such information includes her full name, date of birth, address, telephone number, school or names of her family members. Explain that there’s no need to share such information with children or other people she’s familiar with, and those she doesn’t know personally shouldn’t have these details.

    10 photos of your child that you must never postRelated: 

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  • No chat rooms
    6 / 7 No chat rooms

    Make it clear that she should not stray into chat rooms of any sort, no matter what her friends say. A chat room is simply a private forum that is open only to specific people. As such, it’s usually the preferred mechanism for an adult with malevolent intentions to meet children by pretending he or she is a kid.

    Related: 10 tips for safe web-surfing

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  • Set time limits
    7 / 7 Set time limits

    It’s easy to chalk up the hours spent on such sites, so set reasonable time limits – for example, a maximum of 15 minutes a day during the school week and 30 minutes a day during the weekend. Ensure that she sticks to them.

    (Photos: 123RF.com)

    Related: When your child is addicted to smartphone and tablet

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