Everyone loves showing off pictures of their kids, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. I mean who doesn’t? Today there are hundreds of ways to show them off online. Social media sites likes Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are wonderful for showing off pictures or videos of your kids for all your friends and family who might not be close by. What you might not consider is that it is also easy for predators to see and find out information. Now I don’t want to scare anyone but there a easy precautions you can take to keep your kids safe online.
When I was younger (trying not to show my age here) you pretty much had photo albums and wallet pictures. That was how we showed off family back in the day with a few photos in frames on walls. Today there are so many ways to show pictures digitally that I wouldn’t be surprised if people had no actual photo albums any more. I try to keep up with them but it is just so easy to post them online and keep them on cds. One thing about them being digital and on social media sites is that anyone can see them.
You adjust your security settings on FaceBook and the like so only family and friends can view them but then you friend a lot of people you don’t really know or join other social media sites and maybe aren’t as careful on those. Some stranger can see your pictures which is fine honestly. I mean my blog has pictures of my kids all over the place BUT I take a few precautions since my site is out there for the public eye. I want to share those so you can take a few extra steps to ensure your kids stay safe and you can still show them off all over online.
On any social media website you can adjust Privacy settings so only people you want to see can see your pics and posts. In my case this isn’t possible since my kids pictures have to be on my website so if that IS the case for you keep reading. I have other tips to help in those situations. Otherwise you can search for directions on how to adjust privacy settings for all the social media sites out there.
Again this isn’t always possible in my case and there is a LOT of sites that allow you to “check in” at places so you can share where you are and what you doing with friends online. This unfortunately can give predators an idea of where you live, things you do, places you go with your kids and potentially where your kids go to school. You can either avoid checking in to places altogether or if you are like me just don’t check in to places you go often as a family. I stopped checking in at my kids school and our local Y and I NEVER check in at my house. Don’t give predators of any kind that kind of knowledge.
One thing I can’t stress enough and it’s one I rule I never break is do NOT use your kids names online. I use nick names for mine and ones I don’t actually ever call them as loving nick names. I save those for real life and use special nick names like Diva and Gentleman online. In this way if someone sees them online and see those names that is the only name they know them by. So if someone comes up to one of my kids and calls them that they won’t know who they are talking to.
I know it can be scary to think about anything bad happening and you shouldn’t freak out or worry too much. Just take a few precautions to make sure your kids stay safe and on top those you should talk to your kids about internet safety. Kids have access to all of the same social media sites as you only now there are a lot more predators and even bullies to look out for. Here are couple things to discuss with your kids about being safe online.
Again NO Names. If they are on FB you have some control over who they “friend” and the same goes for Twitter with its ability to control who follows them. Videos on YouTube can be recorded without names and even made private. When they use any of the social media sites that could be public or especially when they play online games of any kind they can use an alternate identity called an Avatar. Not to be confused with the movie but an Avatar is your online identity. Teach your kids to use an their Avatar’s name and ONLY give that name out. Not their real names. Not ever. As they get older you can adjust to not ever unless you say its ok because yes some friendships can start online and that’s ok.
Teach your kids not to check in places especially their school, home or places they hang out a lot. Stores and such are usually ok but can still give an idea of the neighborhoods. It is best if kids don’t mention anything about where they live or go to school. This an be tricky though as some predators might ask questions like the following:
- What sports do you like? – this is relatively harmless and is ok to answer.
- Who is your favorite team? – again mostly harmless but does give an idea of a city. Which is pretty much ok, cities are big.
- What is your number? What team do you play for? – These are less harmless and if answered can give specific location information. Teach your kids to simply respond with “Oh sorry I’m not allowed to give that out”
- Where is your favorite place to play? – Teach your kids to answer with vague answers like a park, or playground but make sure they know not to name them. Nothing specific.
Questions like What is your name? How old are you? Gender? etc. – These questions, while standard teenage questions are also unfortunately standard predator questions too. Remember to have your child use an Avatar name for online use and if asked for a real name suggest that they say this is my online name and only give them their Avatar name. NEVER make up a name as you might endanger another person.
If you let your kids online for games or social purposes set their accounts up yourself and either don’t let them have their own email or have copies of emails sent to and from your kids account also sent to you if they are younger. That or at least have a password and check it now and then but let them know you are going to do that, no secrets. YOU set the social accounts up though and adjust privacy settings for them.
The important part about online safety with kids to talk to them about potential predators. If you make them aware of the dangers and teach them to tell you immediately if they feel uncomfortable talking to anyone then they can enjoy being online and have fun and you can rest easier.
Again, I know its scary to even consider anything happening to your child but it is best to educate yourself and your kids to the dangers online. If you are prepared then they are prepared and everyone can have a good time. Before you start researching online predators be warned…it isn’t pretty. There are stories of kids who were preyed upon online, lured to meet in person and in some cases never heard from again. You don’t have to read any of those stories but do look at ways to keep your children safe online.
You can add the internet safety conversation to your list of things to talk to your kids about when they are online and can read. If they can’t read you don’t have much to worry about really. I already teach my kids about strangers and no touch zones and all that. I don’t scare them but I teach them so they know.
Soon enough I will be having the internet conversation with my son but I am already preparing him by giving him an Avatar and teaching him that when he is on the computer that is the only name he goes by. You really can’t start teaching them too young but it is all in how you present the information. I simply make it matter of fact but lightly. What is your name in this game? In this game you can play with other kids at their computers you know? (after explaining what that means) If any kids on here ask your name make sure you use the one you are using online ok. They shouldn’t know your real name. Because they don’t know you in real life, only people you meet when me or daddy are around can know your real name.
Not too confusing and not scary at all. So to recap…sort of…No names, No locations and adjust privacy settings. This works for your own social media sites and any for your kids if you have older kids. Everyone can have fun online and there is no reason why you shouldn’t show off adorable and funny pictures of your family. Just keep them safe by taking a few precautions and then enjoy all those photos online.