A Consumer Reports survey finds that 7.5 million Facebook users are younger than 13, in violation of the company's terms of service, and that more than 5 million were 10 or younger. Read this article by Larry Magid on CNET News.
Sometimes it might feel overwhelming to keep up with the latest social trend for your kids, but it’s important to be up to date and in the know.
Although we’ll be using a specific example today, this could happen using most any social network. In this particular example Instagram, a photo sharing social network and Kik Messenger, a messaging social app. The issue is that, like many social networks, it’s easy to follow a user from one to the other, either through integration, friend requests, or similar user names. In this case it involved a young teenager and a possible pedophile.
This man, Michael Sheehan, also known as HighTech Dad, had such incident occur to one of his daughter’s friends. Many teens post images to Instagram everyday, using simple editing tools such as filters to give photos an “artsy” feel. Sometimes photos are of places they’ve been, things they want, food they’re eating, and sometimes of themselves. The problem here is that the photos are very publicly available and assignewd to your user account (usually linked to Facebook in most cases). In Michael Sheehan’s case, a user asked to add his daughter’s friend on Kik messenger via Instagram, once the two were connected via Kik messenger, the user asked to see the girl’s privates.
The fine line is in privacy, how private is a social network. Most are very public, like Facebook, Instagram comments are public, probably even more so arguably. Kik messenger chats, on the other hand, are not, and this is where the danger lies.
The situation becomes very, shockingly clear when you think about the timeline and conditions of events. This teenage girl went from posting non-sexual, innocent photos of herself on Instagram and was solicited by a pedophile and engaged by one as well. It’s every parent’s nightmare, sexual predators reaching out to their children, but have no fear, you can be a very good line of defense for your children against this.
Here are some tips regarding Instagram and Kik, and other similar sites/apps:
Privacy on Instagram – Set privacy settings so only those allowed can see the picturesOnly allow followers you or your child knows and can verifyDo NOT allow Kik – private messaging systems are hard to monitor and easily exploitedBe picky about which photos make it online (pictures of teen vs pets/food/etc.)Turn of Geo-Tagging/Location-based services for InstagramHave access to you child’s account (1/2 of all teens said they’d change their online behavior if a parent was watching)Have on-going discussions with your child about online responsibility and be open to questions they may have
Social Networking doesn’t have to be scary. Atlhough it is a place that can be exploited by people like pedophiles, it can easily be guarded against by following some of those tips above. Being involved in your child’s online lives is essential, but don’t impose too many restrictions either, make sure to facilitate a forum-esque attitude to online behavior so they can ask you questions and you and your child can have casual discussions about Internet safety.
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