computer safety firstSocial networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can be fun ways to connect with old friends, share interesting media stories, and post family photos. Many adults use these sites competently and are mindful of their own privacy settings. But if your kids have access to a computer and utilize it even for something as simple as viewing a Youtube video or visiting a popular Tumblr, their foray into social media has begun, and should be monitored in order to make sure your children’s privacy is protected. In order to keep your kids’ use of the internet safe and secure, keep the following tips in mind.

1.  Learn about social networks commonly used by kids and teens. We’re all familiar with Facebook and Twitter, but your children may be visiting sites you’ve never heard of. Snapchat, a service that allows users to send photos to one another that are instantly deleted, is trendy among kids and teens. And many of our children spend hours on Tumblr, Instagram, Youtube, and Vine, consuming videos, photos, and gifs, and, in some cases, posting their own. Find out what your kids are using, and whether they are posting their own content, and monitor their usage to be sure they’re not posting content that is inappropriate.

2.  Talk to your children about real world examples of privacy violations and cyber-bullying. Many kids look at social media as a playground, and have hours of fun with friends without thinking of the ways their personal information can be shared widely or used against them by malicious strangers. Share stories of the dangers of sharing too much information without setting privacy restrictions, and they’ll be more likely to understand that Facebook is not always used for simply fun and games.

3.  Keep your kids’ computer in the living room, kitchen, or other common areas of the home. Many kids have a laptop in their bedrooms, but this can lead to hours of social media use that can become inappropriate. When your children know that you’re in the background, they are less likely to view inappropriate content, use their webcam in ways that may become problematic, or share their private photos or their location.

4.  Are your children too young for social media? If so, talk with them about the age they may be allowed to use websites such as children with laptopInstagram or Youtube. If children feel as if they’ll never be permitted to interact using social media, they may begin to set up secret profiles. Talk with your child about when he or she will be allowed to set up a social media account, and make sure that you have the username and password to that account. Check the privacy settings for each of your child’s socia media accounts frequently to make sure their settings are secure.

Social media can be a fun way for kids to express themselves and socialize, but setting limits and educating yourself about what your children are engaging in online is essential for maintaining their privacy, safety, and security.