Dec 19

To post, or not to post: social media safety for your children

We all love to post things about our children. We want the world to know how proud we feel when they achieve something for the first time, like their first smile, first food, first steps, first day of school, any big moment in their lives or ours. This tends to carry on when they start school, start playing sport and start going to school dances.

With all the horror stories in the news about the kidnappings in our country, we always worry about their safety. Child kidnapping rings have turned to social media platforms to identify targets. Because of this, we need to be careful about what we share on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, so think twice before you hit “post”.

Change your privacy settings.

Facebook allows you to decide who can see your posts. You can set it to “Public”, “Friends of Friends” and “Friends”. If you post a lot about your kids, set your privacy settings so that only your friends can see them. You can also set your Instagram settings to accept or deny the follow requests on your profile.

Don’t check in everywhere you go.

Checking in every time requires your GPS to be turned on so that your location can be identified. This makes it easy for people to track your whereabouts and identify routines and patterns. Criminals are smart, and most are not the opportunists we think they are. If they follow your movements for long enough, they may find a way to approach your child or children without you being present.

Avoid posting too many pictures of your children’s faces.

Not only are pictures showing your child’s face more appealing for criminals, but it makes it easier for them to recognise your child and follow their movements. If your profile is not private, or if you have followers that you don’t know, try to avoid putting too many pictures of your child’s face as far as possible. More and more parents are using emojis to cover faces and other recognisable features.

Limit your children’s screen time.

These days, children are a lot more “tech-savvy” and from a young age they are able open and use certain applications on several different smart devices. Promoting sports and playtime with educational toys and games, encourages them to play with others and is also better for their physical health. This also lowers the risk of people reaching out to your children through smart devices.

Don’t create pages or profiles on your children’s behalf when they are too young to have their own.

Some parents create profiles on social media platforms when they are very young, to post pictures of them and “tag” them in posted pictures. Not only is this done without your child’s permission, but your child is unaware. Considering what is currently happening in our country, you are (maybe unwittingly) putting your child’s safety at risk. Let them decide whether they want to join social media platforms when they are old enough to do so and tell them how to be safe.

Use passwords for certain applications and websites.

If the content of certain websites is not applicable for your children, set passwords so that they are not able to access to websites. Make it difficult enough that they will not be able to figure it out, as the older they get, the more resourceful they become.

Teach your children to be vigilant while on social media.

Once your children are a bit older, make sure you explain the risks of making contact with people that they don’t know. Remember, it’s not only young girls that are targeted these days. Ensure your children’s privacy settings are set for their safety and have them tell you when someone they don’t know is making them feel uncomfortable.

Being open and honest with you children is the best way for them to be honest with you. If they think they are doing something wrong and you are quick to punish them, they will keep things from you and that endanger them further. Ensure that they can come to you with any concerns and handle it in a calm and rational way. They will learn from you, and then they will be able to make good choices.

English