As a concerned parent, you probably already know and use several methods for protecting your identity from theft as you use social media on different devices. But helping to protect your kids’ identities as they navigate social media and mobile devices adds a whole other dimension of responsibility.
Here are a few ways to keep your kids safe while they’re online.
Start with a written ‘contract’
I have tried this approach with my own kids, and it’s been effective: Write down the house rules for social media usage and ask your kids to sign it before you let them go online.
- Include limits for the number of hours per day and the times of day they can be on line, along with sites and apps they can and cannot use.
- Specify the allowable devices and locations for access, and whether a parent must be present.
Print the rules on a card, and have your child sign it. Then post the card where it is clearly visible, perhaps next to the computer or on the child’s desk.
Insist on access to social media accounts
Make sure you are added as a friend on your child’s social media accounts. This will allow you to monitor their activities as well as keep an eye out for predators or bad behavior.
- Limit their friends to people they know. It may be hard for them to understand but having many social media friends is not a “badge of honor.” It’s dangerous practice to allow access to strangers, even those who are “friends of friends.”
- Register your own fingerprints on the child’s devices so you can review usage at regular intervals or whenever you think it’s needed. Then set the system so that it will not allow registration of new fingerprints.
- Check the kids’ accounts for privacy settings. Make sure their account and personal data are not public. Enter only enough personal information to enable access, and never allow an app’s use if it asks for Social Security numbers, exact birthdates or other info that could be used for identity theft. Delete old or unused accounts when the child outgrows them or if they fall out of favor for some other reason. Deleting the account can keep the data from theft in the event of a security breach.
If your device allows it, limit the ability to download or install new apps so you can check new apps out for safety before enabling access.
Keep apps and systems current
Always keep apps and operating systems current with the latest releases as soon as they are published. Scammers and hackers exploit security loopholes in older releases, so make sure you don’t leave that door open for them.
Make sure your children’s devices have location services enabled, or add an app to your devices that tracks their whereabouts. This can help you check that they are where they said they would be, and so you can find them in an emergency. However, do not allow other apps to track your child’s location unless it is necessary for the app to function and you understand how the app uses the information.
It goes without saying that you keep your own devices safe with the latest updates and anti-malware applications. If you share devices with other family members, go one step further and ensure that you and your child use separate accounts. You don’t want to inadvertently open yourself up to identity theft while trying to protect your child.
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