#Social media – when to #put away the #phone

We are always looking for ways to warn the public against online predators and the pitfalls of oversharing on social media. Parents know all too well how much of a daily battle this is with their children. Some may feel that limiting or monitoring online activity or keeping up with the latest app is a lost cause. Still, parental supervision and communication that is open, direct and consistent is the best defense.

Establishing guidelines about usage and explaining risks, can create an atmosphere in which children and teens feel comfortable talking about what they are experiencing. Despite our best efforts, there are people out there posing as nice guys, but who are intent on exploiting victims.

Things to know:

• Establish guidelines on permitted sites and place all devices under the adult parent’s name and account.
• Set boundaries. Computers, smart phones or tablets go in the parents’ bedroom at bedtime.
• Know your children’s passcode and let them know you will periodically go through their device.
• Consider a parent-child contract for the privilege of having a phone that you both agree on.
• Know it is common for kids to have more than one social media account – one that is family friendly and one they use for peers.
Every parent’s nightmare is that their child or teen becomes the victim of an online predator. This is difficult to prevent, which is why you should build your child’s resiliency by arming them with accurate information. Your child must understand that if they don’t personally know the person they are communicating with on social media, that person is a stranger and has to be treated as such.

Here are some tips to help you protect your teen or child:
• Talk about what personal information is and is not appropriate to share on social media.
• Adjust privacy settings so that only “friends” can view their sites and posts.
• Instruct your child to never “friend” someone they don’t know or to accept a “friend request” from a stranger.
• Create an agreement that that says your child will let you know any time someone they don’t know contacts them online.
• Know which video games your child or teen is playing and who they may be talking to while playing, since today’s games allows players to communicate with other players anywhere in the world. Sometimes games are a foil for pornography and other predatory behavior.
• Teach your child not to send nude photos or videos of themselves under any circumstances. Explain that once the photo or video is sent, there is no control over what happens to that image or video.
• Be direct that no one who cares about your son or daughter would ask them to send nude photos.
• If someone solicits your teen for their nude photos or videos or sends them to your child, report it to law enforcement.
Bullying is more prevalent than ever and we can’t underestimate its impact. Some of our children suffer in silence, but they shouldn’t.

What to know about cyberbullying:
• If you see cyberbullying directed at someone else, do not engage or like the post.
• Screen shot and preserve the post to share with trusted adults, school administration and if need be, law enforcement.
• Note the date, time and username of the bully.
• Be supportive and don’t minimize the impact if your child is the subject of cyberbullying.
• Encourage your child to support others who are being bullied.
Many parents avoid having hard conversations about safety with their children because the threat isn’t obvious. With children having phones, computers and other Internet ready devices at younger ages, the potential for danger to sneak into their bedrooms is high. It’s important to directly tell kids that “stranger danger” applies to their mobile devices and their social media channels.

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