Category: Social Media Safety

Online Summer Safety Tips for Kids

Summer Fun

School’s out, and that means your kids have lots of time free to spend online chatting, making plans with friends, and posting fun summertime photos—sometimes without you there to supervise. If that gives you anxiety, fear not. Here are four steps that will keep keep your child safe online this summer.

1. Set Rules for Responsible Use

Sit down with your children and talk frankly about why you care about their internet safety, covering big topics like cyberbullying or identity theft in a way that matches their maturity level. Then work together to define clear, understandable rules for their online interactions. Here are a few basics to consider:

  • Never post personal info like addresses and phone numbers on social media.
  • Avoid location check-ins and photo geo-tagging, which can be used to track where you are as well as when you are away from home.
  • Be wary of free games and other goodies, which can infect your devices with malware. Keep security software up to date and scan everything before downloading.
  • Use secure passwords and protect them. There are several password managers out there that can generate strong passwords and store them all in one place.

Once you’ve agreed upon the ground rules for online safety, put them into a contract to be signed by everyone in the family.

2. Follow Your Own Rules

This is an important follow-up to the previous rule. You want your kids not to text or go online after 10 p.m.? Shut down your phone and laptop at the same time.

Don’t want them posting embarrassing photos of you? Let them veto pictures they may not be happy with you sharing on social media, too.

If you can adhere to the rules you and your kids built together, they will feel more inclined to do so as well.

3. Build Your Child’s Critical Thinking Skills

In a world abounding with fake news, help your kids think critically about any content they find online. Encourage older kids especially to fact-check stories before reposting on Facebook or commenting on Twitter.

Teach them to question their own motives as well. Just because a comment will generate a lot of likes, that doesn’t mean they should post it. Even one poorly chosen post can cause problems down the line.

The Family Online Safety Institute has also developed a checklist that includes reminders to remove and untag unwanted posts, and to “accentuate the positive” by posting upbeat content.

4. Let Your Kids Know You Will Still Monitor Online Usage

Finally, let your kids know that you may occasionally check up on their activity. Being upfront about your plans to look at their browser history and monitor their Facebook account will establish a sense of trust and keep them accountable.

For young kids who need a bit more oversight, there are plenty of helpful apps available to let you keep an eye on them. Older kids and teens may not need (or want) as much monitoring, so for them, you may be able to check in less often. To really emphasize trust, you can even ask them to put their passwords into a piggy bank for use only in an emergency.

The internet can be a great resource for helping kids learn and be social during their school-free summer months, and following the steps listed here will help them do so smartly, responsibly, and safely.

Eight Great Things to Do with Kids This Summer

How Social Media Affects Children’s Mental Health

How Social Media Affects Children’s Mental Health

Social media is now part of everyday living.  We check it on the bus when going to work, during lunch breaks, and after school. For many, it is the first thing they check before getting out of bed in the morning. Social media is entrenched into the lives of children as well. It can be difficult for them to break away from it.

Long hours spent on social media could negatively affect a child’s mental health.  Some of these adverse effects include:

Causes Low Self-Esteem in Children and Teens

This is probably the greatest effect of social media on children. On a platform like Instagram, people post pictures while having fun, show off their new homes, their perfect parents who take them on vacations abroad, etc. This can make a child still in the emotional development stage compare what they see on social media and their lives. Teenagers also use social media to bully, send negative pictures and exert peer pressure on their schoolmates, which negatively affects the victim’s self-esteem.

1. Anxiety

Many teenagers and adults can feel anxious because of social media. They feel pressured to constantly post perfect photos and equally good posts to accompany the photos. There are unspoken rules in social media that are difficult to keep up with, leading to teenagers experiencing high anxiety levels. Young people view a lot of content on what their idols, peers, and friends are doing, making them feel left out. If they post something on social media and it does not get enough comments and likes as their friends, they may feel anxious and inadequate.

This can be a problem for young adults having anxiety issues because social media can exacerbate the problem. Girls feel anxious online as they are susceptible to worrying about how they look and be negatively affected by slut-shaming and cyberbullying.

2. Sleep Issues

Social media is addictive, and teenagers and children can talk with their friends and get caught up in posting for long periods. This can affect their sleep quality and sleeping patterns, impacting their mental health. Lack of sleep can affect a young adult in many ways. They may drop their grades, get moody and tired during the day, and have difficulty concentrating in class.

Also, increased screen time is associated with attention hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms, which include emotional regulation, poor attention span, and sleeping problems. A teenager’s brain is still developing, and they require at least eight hours of quality sleep every night. Prolonged use of social media can affect both the quality of sleep and the amount of sleep, worsening mental health condition symptoms, including anxiety and depression.

3. Reduced Physical Activity

Increased screen time leads to less physical activity. Teenagers and children spend a lot of time online and less time taking part in active play. Furthermore, people drink and eat carelessly while playing an online game or watching TV, which packs more calories on their bodies leading to weight gain. Lack of physical activity and obesity leads to numerous health problems, including depression, respiratory issues, heart diseases, and diabetes.

How to Lessen the Effects of Social Media on Children’s Mental Health

  • Talk about social media. Talk to your child about the effects of social media and gauge how they feel about it. Do they like it, or does it make them worried and anxious? Educate your child about social media and help them understand that what goes on social media can have repercussions in real life. If your teen is too far gone into social media, you can enroll them in cognitive behavioral therapy to help them know how their feelings, thoughts, and behavior are related. This will help them identify and change unhelpful thought behaviors and patterns.
  • Limit social media use. This can especially work for younger children. Although they may resist at first, the limitations will eventually benefit them.
  • Be a role model. As an adult, you should be a good example by putting away your devices at mealtimes, limiting your social media time, and having specific times when you do not touch any technological device. Your child or teen will follow in your footsteps and have an improved relationship with social media.

Encourage your children to get out more by engaging in physical activity yourself. You can also participate in online games that encourage dance and movement, such as yoga and aerobics. All of these ideas combined will help your child form a healthy relationship with social media and create better balance in their lives.

Social Media Safety Tips for Kids

Social Media Tips

Here are so many aspects to ensuring social media safety, no matter what your age.  It can be a bit overwhelming.  One might say that people just need to use own common sense to stay safe.  Yet, there are plenty of cases when even the most intelligent people are not thinking clearly while posting or commenting online.

Hopefully these social media safety tips will help!   Rather discuss the various safety tips for each individual social media platform, here are general concepts explained in depth to help kids stay safe. Whether it’s Tik Tok, Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, Snapchat, Discord, Omegle or others, we hope these tips will help you develop your own common sense.

Contents: In this article, we’ll explore these Social Media Tips for Kids.

  1. Social Media Manners – How social media users should one behave while connecting with others on social media.
  2. To Post or Not to Post – This is the question that needs to be answered every time you are about to post a comment or picture online.
  3. Privacy Settings – Every social media platform has privacy settings. Knowing the “why” behind privacy settings applies for all of them.
  4. What Would the ‘Future You’ Post Online? – What you post now may follow you for the rest of your life.
  5. Can Social Media Make You Sad? – Being on media can be harmful to your mental health if you don’t learn to manage it.
  6. Ghosts on Social Media – What is posted online has the potential to stay online forever, even if you try to deleted it.

Learning how to control what you do today will help you avoid a world of trouble in the future.  When it come to social media, even adults need safety tips on the apps they use. So, let’s get started by diving deep into these tips!

1. Social Media Manners

For many, the idea of “good manners” conjures up images of someone wagging a finger at you. Etiquette is simply being thoughtful of others. Good manners on social media means taking a moment to think before you hit that post icon.

It means looking at what you do online as if you are someone else and realizing how your actions and words look to others.

Manners are not about being fake or sucking up. Manners are about adding to the online world without shutting people down and cutting off communication.

It also is about protecting YOU.

While media manners are always evolving as online behavior and options arise, these are basic guidelines to help you and your followers get along and benefit from the amazing methods of communications available today:

  • Never post a picture of someone else without permission. Not only is this rude, it is spreading another person’s image or personal information (for example, that they were at a party in your backyard on a certain date). Always get permission and if the person says no, respect his or her decision.
  • Further to the first rule – NEVER tag a person without their consent.
  • Never post when you are angry. To do so makes you look stupid or thoughtless. It also can inflict damage on people because your view may not take into consideration of the circumstances from that person’s point of view. When another person’s actions bother you, the better response is to talk to that person face-to-face or in a private message. You will probably find that you and the person who made you angry are not as different or as conflicted as you think.

Ever heard of the 24 hour rule? While it may make you feel better to write down your initial feelings when you are angry, don’t post your thoughts until you sleep on it. Take some time to cool off. This way, you won’t communicate something in the heat of the moment that you will regret later.

  • If you change your relationship status, let any other involved person know first. You and Rahim or Rachel are on the outs. But before you make a post in front of the whole world, contact Rahim or Rachel and explain your thoughts. Who knows? You might even repair any damage from the spat before it becomes locked in time forever on the Internet.
  • Be careful with CAPS! There are times when choice words emphasized by capital letters helps make your point. To put a whole statement in caps implies that you are yelling with nothing standing out. If everything is in caps, nothing is emphasized.
  • When video chatting or posting a video, make sure that there is nothing creepy or rude behind you. Imagine someone chatting with you in front of a poster that a bit raunchy or somewhat violent looking. Such creepy images not only make what you say seem ridiculous, they will come back to haunt you when you apply for a job or want to make new friends.

Kids can also make their own list of good manners and share with your friends. The more we learn to respect the thoughts of other people, the better we can make life online rewarding and safe for all.

2. To Post or Not to Post on Social Media

Wow! You learned how to do the front crawl, earned $63 dollars with your lemonade stand and your whole family spent a week at a resort all the way across the country. And every day as your thumb hovers over your phone, you need to ask yourself one question: “Should I post this?”

As you think about that great picture of your sister with cotton candy all over her face, remember one of the basic rules of social media posting: Do not post a picture of anybody without that person’s permission. That includes your sister. Remember, too, that while you might get a laugh at an embarrassing picture of your brother and his bar-b-que sauce accident, posting that picture could be something you regret for years to come.

Another thought to go over as your fingers find the post icon is this: How many pictures do I post? The answer: As few as possible.

When you send picture after picture after picture after picture, people start to get annoyed. It can also seem a little desperate to load your page with dozens of images from the same place. Better to choose two or three cool shots to post and save the rest to show your close friends when you get home.

When typing text on social media, less is also better. Shorter posts are more likely to be read and less likely to contain detailed, personal details that could be used to harm you or your family.

It’s also more fun to show pictures and describe details in person. Then you can make sure that you only share with friends that are close enough to meet face-to-face. You can see the looks on their faces when you tell them about that awesome midway ride.

Considering that you will have more free time to post on social media, this is a good time to double check your privacy settings. It’s also a good time to go through your “friends” and truly think about who you really—really—know. When you go through the list, you could find people that are complete strangers to you.

Summer is a time when you have more freedom to explore and enjoy the real world. So grab that opportunity. Put down your phone and truly experience your summer vacation. What you do this summer can change how you feel, think and what you do for the rest of your life.

Yes, it’s great to have pictures and share the experience with your “friends.” What’s more important is the way reality can shape who you are. Take it easy on the social media and discover that the most important “posts” are the ones that you carry in your head and your heart and share by how you live.

3. Social Media Privacy Settings

Social Media Tips for KidsNew technology is incredibly exciting and fun. It’s amazing when you think that what you type on your computer in your room can be seen all around the world by anybody with a computer. But should it be seen by anyone with a computer?

Should the kid who’s been insulting you at the park know that you go there every Saturday morning to play basketball? Should the girl who calls you ugly get to see the new dress you bought? Probably not.

That’s why in this exciting time in human history, you need to think about your life as a valuable gift. You should think about that before every story you post. One easy way to make sure your life is shared only with those who like or love you is to use your social media privacy settings.

You probably know how to post, edit posts, change your profile picture and message friends. But do you know how to block strangers from looking you up on social media? If someone has started insulting you online, do you know how to block that person from posting on your page?

You can even block that person from sending you a private message or looking up your email address. Another smart setting to protect yourself from dangers online is to only accept friend requests from friends of friends. This helps limit who sees your profile.

Of course, there is a problem with this. You should talk with your friends about their settings. Better still, sit down with your friends (in real time, in real life) and play with the security settings. Show each other how the settings work and which ones you need to use.

When all of you keep control over who can see what you post online, all of you are safer. All major social media sites have safety and privacy settings. One fast way to learn about them is to Google the social platform’s name and “how to set privacy.”

Remember, talk to your friends and family about their settings. When everyone you share with has the same secure settings, all of you is safer.

For decades, kids have stuck signs on their doors that read: “Keep Out” and “Please Knock” and “Trespassers will be yelled at.” Think about your social media settings as signs on your online door. Don’t let just anyone walk in.

4. What Would the ‘Future You’ Post Online?

Adults tell you all the time: “Be careful what you post on social media! The Internet is forever!” Teachers say: “When you apply for college, the school might reject you because of all those pictures and mean posts.”

You hear over and over: “People who hire employees will read your history and you might not get the job you want.” You smile, nod, then roll your eyes. Who cares about what happens in five, ten or twenty years?

Someone just made a post that makes you angry—you feel that you must post some angry comment back. You take a picture of yourself drawing a rude image on a neighbor’s fence and snicker as you upload it to your page.

Stop. Take your fingers off your phone or keyboard. What you are told is true. The Internet saves everything you do today. People can see all your posts five, ten and even twenty years from now. People have lost jobs for postings made years before.

If you want to be, say, the boss of a company or a famous dancer or a doctor or mayor of a city, think about that when you post online. A firefighter’s job is to face danger and save lives—would someone like that make mean posts to a little kid?

Would a great engineer type hurtful words to a person who is different from him or her? Maybe you won’t become a great engineer if you can’t get into college because of mean comments posted when you were a kid.

Think about what you want to be. Imagine reaching your goals. You could dream of being an athlete, a pop star, a carpenter, a zoologist—whatever it is, think about how The Future You would act online. What would a nurse post when a person talks about being in pain?

What would a great world leader do when he or she sees someone being bullied online? If you act like the person you want to grow up to be, you’ll be on the road to being that person.

Now, look at your social media platforms.

Think about what a firefighter would say to the comments you see online. You have a long way to go before you can join a team of firefighters, but your journey can start when you act smart and strong online. It’s like having a firefighter writing your posts!

5. Can Social Media Make You Sad?

Can Social Media Make You Sad?Are you feeling sad? Lonely? Even though you have hordes of friends on social media do you feel alone? The problem might be your social media. A study in the United Kingdom learned something you should think about.

Just one hour a day on your social media can make you feel worse about your life.

That wasn’t the only study. The University of Michigan found that the more young people use social media, the sadder they were. The Brown University of Public Health had the same findings. Other studies litter the Internet.

Why does time on social media make kids sad? No one knows for sure, but there are a few ideas:

Cyberbullying.

Not all kids are bullied online, but when they are the damage can be deep.

Thinking that everyone else has a better life.

Some people believe that when you see friends with exciting pictures and posts, you will think that they have more fun than you do. You’ll then feel bad about yourself. Jealousy is a tricky emotion, but it’s even more complicated when you think about online posts.

Remember, people upload posts that make them look good. They do not post pictures that show them looking bad. You could be jealous of a life that isn’t how it looks online.

Time spent online gives you less time in the real world.

The real world makes you move your body, which makes you feel better. That is partly because of “happy” chemicals your brain kicks out when you exercise.

Also, people feel an incredible amount of satisfaction when they reach a goal in the physical world (like making a lay-away or sitting with a friend who needs a buddy or discovering a great new view after hiking to the top of a hill or experiencing the thrill of sledding down that hill).

When you spend time online, you miss out on all the benefits of living in the real world. That can make you feel sad.

Before you say that these studies are just another way adults try to control what kids do, think about this: everything bad that happens to children because they spend time on social media happens to adults, too. You could be a positive role model to your parents. When your dad seems bummed out after a hard day on the job or your mom has problems with a project she’s working on, get them to take a break.

Let’s be honest here. When you are old and crouched over and rolling your eyes over what your grandchildren are doing, there will still be studies about why you are sad. Some of those studies will blame computers and whatever new technology is in your hands. One hundred years from now, the best advice will still be the same: Put down your phone and go tell someone.

Explore how you may be sad for other reasons.

6. Ghosts on Social Media

Are you afraid of ghosts? You should be if you post carelessly on social media. Consider this: You snap a funny shot of the school’s new soccer coach bending over. Your friends think it is hilarious. The next season, you try out for the team and discover that the coach isn’t excited about having you on the team.

She is concerned about your ability to show proper respect for the sport. You might be haunted by that old picture you posted the year before.

Or you go to a concert and post a comment about the fans dancing idiotically in front of the stage.

Months pass and you don’t think much about the posting… until you ask a bunch of kids at school what they’re doing that night. Someone says with a huff, “We’re going to go do some idiotic dancing,” before the group walk away from you.

Ah, yes, the ghost of social media past has come back to haunt you again.

You never know when a ghost will strike.

Some college applicants get haunted when colleges come across rude or even harassing behavior online.

Others find out when applying for a job that an old insult scares employers out of giving them a great job.

Most commonly, these ghosts jump out at you when what you say online doesn’t match what happened in reality.

It doesn’t even have to be your social media that gets you into trouble.

You tell a friend that you can’t hang out with her because you are studying when later another friend posts a picture of you and her shopping at the mall.

Hurt feelings are bad enough, but people may stop trusting you. Ghosts can really jump out of nowhere. They can haunt friendships for years to come.

The only way to prevent your social media from haunting you is to be smart. When you want to share an activity or a thought, remember that others may share your post and that it could be seen by people in the future.

No matter what apps you are using as a kid, there are enough scary forces in the world. Don’t let your social media history come back to haunt you.

Young People and a Healthy Relationship with Social Media

Young People Healthy Relationship with Social Media

For those of us raised in the landline generation, social media can feel like terrifying new terrain. No sooner did we get our heads around Facebook, than it was deemed uncool by the younger generation, who quickly moved onto Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok. It’s tempting to embrace being a ‘tech dinosaur’ and scoff at the latest craze, but as parents this is a risky strategy.

Our children’s lives are moving more and more online, into a rapidly changing, unmarshalled digital world. It’s essential we understand how they’re using social platforms, to keep them safe and to support their mental health. So, here’s 5 top tips to engage with our children’s virtual world and help them form a healthy relationship with social media.

1. Set boundaries

Setting boundaries sounds obvious, but it’s easier said than done. Particularly in the last year, allowing our children to get lost in their screens has been an easy way to give us much-needed respite. However, we know that too much screen time is detrimental to our children’s mental health and can affect their sleep, so it’s essential that we’re helping them to strike a healthy balance.

There’s lots of great advice out there about how to enforce time limits and set parental controls, but this will always work better if it’s done in collaboration with your child. Ask them how much time they think is appropriate and you may be surprised by how reasonable their response is.

It’s also useful to think about how and when they’re using their devices. Last thing at night can affect their sleep and first thing in the morning can risk them becoming addicted, needing their ‘fix’ the minute they wake up. Similarly, playing on Minecraft will have a very different emotional impact to scrolling through ‘beach body’ images on Instagram. Sometimes setting boundaries can be as simple as telling them to change what app they’re on, to give them a mental health break.

2. Educate them about staying safe

Again, this one can feel tricky when it’s our children who are the digital natives, while we feel more like anxious tourists. However, on a neurological level, children and young people haven’t developed the ability to gauge and assess risk accurately, so they need us to support them with this. As the digital world is moving fast, it’s impossible to keep on top of all the new platforms and associated risks, so educating our children on understanding the dangers is our best hope.

Letting them know the importance of protecting their personal information is essential, spelling out just how easy it is to give details away without realizing we’ve done it. Also, let them know how disinhibited we can become when we’re online. This is particularly pertinent when we look at cyberbullying. It may be that they fall victim to bullying and need our support, but it’s also incredibly easy for children to fall into the trap of bullying others, without even recognizing that that’s what they’re doing.

3. Take an interest

We’re often quick to judge what’s a valuable use of our children’s time and what’s a waste. Maybe we give them our full attention when they let us know about how they got on in their football match or if they’ve had a fall out in the playground, but when they start telling us about what they’re up to online, we immediately glaze over.

While we may find it hard to enthuse about social platforms, we still want our children to come to us about them. Our children may have whole friendship groups, hobbies and an entirely different persona online that we need to know about. So have a strong coffee, take a deep breath and try to act interested as they talk about this aspect of their lives. By being curious and asking questions we’ll be better informed and we’ll become closer to our children too.

4. Don’t demonize social media

Similarly, it can be tempting to make dismissive comments when our children talk about their social media use. ‘What are you on that for? Get outside in the fresh air and spend time with your real friends!’ may be on the tip of our tongues, particularly if we’ve read up on all the negative aspects of social media, but all we’re doing is telling our children not to talk to us about their online lives – and that’s a dangerous message.

There’s lots of positives to social media. For children struggling with their mental health, they can find others in a similar situation and draw strength from them, and in the various lockdowns, social media did a lot to stave off the feelings of isolation and loneliness that many young people felt. Find out how your child is using social media and if it does seem to be impacting negatively on their mental health, help them to find more positive ways of using it.

5. Encourage real life connections

Finally, as with most things, it’s about balance. It’s okay for children to use social media but it’s important that they have other sides to their life as well. If they have a club or hobby that they enjoy, encourage them to keep it up. If it looks like they’re losing interest, have an honest conversation with them and agree together what they can do to maintain connections with the real world.

Encouraging our children to have their friends over is another way to maintain those real world relationships, as is making sure we’re spending quality time with them too. Days out, walking the dog, baking or getting creative together are all good ways to bring us closer to our children and are also a great way to engineer conversations about how things are going in their online world.

We don’t have to ‘lose’ our children to social media. By being open and interested in what they’re telling us, without overreacting or jumping to conclusions, they’ll know that they can come to us if they have a problem. By doing this we’re also modelling communication, compassion and problem-solving skills which are all cornerstones of healthy relationships. If they’re experiencing these in the real world, they’re much more likely to apply them to their virtual lives too.

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Social Media for KidsHelen has nearly 20 years’ experience working with children and young people.  As a primary school teacher and child and adolescent counselor she is passionate about understanding and supporting children. Helen is head of counseling at Mable Therapy, a company transforming the way children and young people across the UK access therapy. By replacing traditional therapy methods with immersive, game-based therapy and technology, the process of achieving goals becomes fun and rewarding.

Safer Search

What does it take to provide a safer web experience for kids? It takes a combination of tools and resources working together in unison: internet filtering, safe and secure browsing, parental control apps, and education. That is our mission at Safe Search Kids as we work to deliver these four cornerstones of online safety to parents, teachers, and students.