When it comes to keeping our kids safe online, we tend to focus on filtering and monitoring. An equally important element of their safety, however, is their online privacy.
Frankly, most of us probably aren’t doing enough in this area. Fortunately, there are some easy steps we can (and must) take to protect their privacy online.
Though they’ll learn some of this in school (hopefully), you should deliberately teach what kind of information they should not be sharing on social media, including email, forums, and photo-sharing sites.
With people they don’t know in person, kids should never share their last name, phone numbers, address, school name or teams, or town where they live. All of this is identifying information that others could use to further find and contact them. For younger ones (if you don’t want to scare them too much) tell them that there are some bad people out there, and it’s like a game of hide-and-seek. Would the information you are about to give out help them find you? If so, don’t share it.
Teach them also to never, never share their passwords for any account with anyone. The only exception to this is your parents. Not your boyfriend (who you will eventually break up with…we hope), not your BFF (who will probably be your enemy next year)…no one.
If your kids are sharing photos on Snapchat, Instagram, or some other platform, teach them some principles that will keep them safe:
These principles apply to you, too, fellow parent! We need to think carefully before posting pictures of our kids.
Check the settings in your Facebook account, too. Can other “friends of friends” see your photos? Can they share your photos beyond your social circle?
If your child has a smartphone, you need to be aware that many of the apps on that use the phone’s location, and by extension, your child’s location. In keeping with the above principles of sharing information, you should turn off location sharing for most of your kid’s apps.
On an iPhone, go to Settings, then Privacy, then Location Services. Set all of the apps to Never, with a few exceptions. For weather apps, Find my iPhone, and any other apps that might have notifications that still need to come through, leave these set to Always. Social media apps, cameras, and should stay at Never.
On an Android, you can turn off location services for individual apps by going to Settings > General > Apps, then Configure Apps or App Settings, then App Permissions.
Why do this? Have you ever posted a photo to Facebook from your phone and the post tagged it with the city where you were at the time? Hello, Location Services! Not a key piece of info we want our kids broadcasting with every picture they post.
These are just a few simple steps we can take–and teach–as parents to strengthen our kids’ online privacy.
What’s the very next step you need to take?