November 2022 - Keeping your kids safe online

Social media safety is a major concern for juveniles nationwide. As a School Resource Officer, I see the impacts on kids every day. I have observed students become involved in online activities  - some positive and some negative. It is important to keep in mind that no social media or online activity is completely safe. 
Social media sites and apps, including Facebook, SnapChat, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, are the most common sites used by students. The age requirement for these sites is 13 although it is common for juveniles to use fake birthdays to gain access to these platforms. By accessing these platforms before age 13, young children are at increased risk of encountering inappropriate content and/or contact from older users. 
Seemingly small decisions can lead to severe consequences. For example, last year I handled a situation involving a juvenile who added a random person on SnapChat. This “random” account began asking for pictures of the person and the juvenile complied. The “random” account then photoshopped the pictures that were sent to them and threatened to send the pictures, now photoshopped, to the juveniles' family and friends. The “random” account then demanded $1,000 or else they would send them. The juvenile ended up sending the money. After an investigation, the account was created overseas and this is a major scam that is occurring specifically over SnapChat. Never add random accounts!
Social media is often a source of peer pressure and stress for teens. In a recent Pew survey, 37% percent of teens feel pressured to post content that will get a lot of “likes” on social media, and 45% percent of teens feel overwhelmed by drama on social media. Over 70% of teens associate their social media use with positive emotions such as feeling included and confident. 
Here are some tips for parents and students to become more safe online: 
It’s safest to only add people you know offline to your online circles. Ask your children to check their “friends” and “followers” lists to see who has access to their accounts. Encourage them to remove anyone they don’t know or trust. Kids should also block or “unfriend” anyone bothering them.

Privacy settings are there to help make the experience safe! Teach children to use privacy settings. While they don’t guarantee complete privacy, they can help children control who sees what they share.

In today’s world, one’s online reputation can affect their offline reputation too. Help kids remove any personal or inappropriate images from social media and other accounts.

If it wouldn’t be okay to do something offline, it’s not okay online either. Help children  report any criminal behavior to the police and report inappropriate posts to the website or app -- most have a system in place to handle these complaints.

If you have any questions about any of the tips provided in this column, please be encouraged to stop by my office or send me an email about online safety at: