Children and social networking
Social networking sites are very attracting to young internet surfers, a recent report shows that 81% of children (ages 12-18) use social networking sites in Bahrain and they use them to connect with their family and friends (51.1%), make new friends, share pictures and videos, play games (44.5%).
As a parent or caregiver, the following steps could help you insure your children are using these channels safely:
- Try Social Networking yourself: sign up to the social networking sites your child uses, learn more about them and how they work. If you understand the social networking site your child uses, then you can be more comfortable with your child using it, for example, if your child is currently using Instagram or Snapchat, you can download the applications and explore them. You can also add your children as friends and closely monitor their activities, friends and posts. It is recommended that you not interfere with their socializing (unless you find an alarming sign) because your child could easily create another account to keep you out of his/her business.
- Communicate with your child: tell your child how you expect him/her to use social networks, and what are they made for.
- Who to communicate with: Explain to your child that he/she should use social networks to connect with family members, class mates and friends, make sure they understand why contacting people outside your circle of contacts is dangerous, and tell them to never accept friend requests from people they do not know personally or anyone they know you would not approve of.
- Explain the concept of Stranger=Danger: Research shows that 40.2% of children in Bahrain have initiated contact or contacted a stranger online and 22.7% have added an online stranger to their contact list and 16.4% have met a stranger they met online, in person.
- Tell them that they should never be pressured into doing something they do not feel comfortable doing. 7.7% of children have been asked to do something unpleasant.
- Communicate: Make sure they understand you are available in case they need to talk about their online activity or any issue they face online. Only 37.5% of females and 24.4% of male children have shared their unpleasant online experiences with a family member.
- Teach them about the concept of ‘personal information’; it is any piece of information that could tell a total stranger more than what they should know, for example their full name, phone numbers, passwords, email address, home address, school name, social or sports club name, etc.
- Tell them what is ‘online privacy’ and why is it important. 20.2% of children in Bahrain do not have privacy settings on their social networking profiles.
- Tell them why they should never give out any personal information to online contacts; anyone they have not met in real life and only know online.
- Talk to your child about online strangers, explain what this means, online strangers include anyone they have never met in real life and only know online. 9.9% of children in Bahrain have shared personal information with a stranger online.
- Tell them what is acceptable to be shared online, what is not, and how to use social media responsibly. 6.8% of children in Bahrain have revealed a photograph of themselves to a stranger online.
- Teach them about the privacy features that social networking sites provide and how they can make use of the ‘block’ feature to stop unwanted contact with online users, also teach them how to ‘report’ abusive accounts.
- P@s$\/\/0rdS.: Teach your child how to create and use strong passwords so that no one can hack into their accounts, and tell them to never share their passwords with anyone.
- Set the Privacy Settings: Most social networking sites have tools that help set privacy levels according to your preference. If your child uses a photo sharing social network, remind them to always share responsibly, to always restrict their sharing to their closed/private contacts list, to monitor and update this list, to also disable the location feature on the images or content they post.
- Age restrictions: most social media accounts have a minimum age requirement for signing-up, many have the minimum age set as 13 years to subscribe, make sure that your child is of the appropriate age to subscribe into a social networking site.