Imagine living in a glass house. Think about everyone watching what you do and how you spend your time. A bit terrifying, right? Today, many kids are living in a sort of virtual glass house. Everything gets documented. They might capture that late-night mac and cheese, snap a pic of their new outfit, or check in at a concert venue. Not only is this normal, but it’s also often rewarded.
We’re going to walk you through some practical, empathetic ways to relate to your kid’s online experience, explain the lack of privacy on social media, and create family rules to help promote safety.
Social Media and Privacy (Or Lack Thereof)
Social media and privacy might even sound like a contradiction. Isn’t the whole point of social media to share details about your life, feelings, and whereabouts? How else will people know what your teenager had for lunch today? Here’s a little context from Pew Research on how most young kids are thinking about social media privacy issues:
- Teens are sharing more about themselves than ever before, including sensitive personal information.
- Kids continue to use social media even after they start to lose interest because it’s a major part of their socialization.
- Only 9% of teens showed concern about 3rd-party access to their personal data.
Introduction to Social Media and Privacy While Online
Connecting social media privacy issues to more serious and long-term problems might drive home their importance and relevance to your kids. Below are a few tips for starting a productive conversation about social media privacy issues:
- Make the consequences clear and relatable. The result of something like identity theft can affect their ability to get into college or get a car loan.
- Don’t make any topic off-limits. Let them know you are even willing to talk about things that involve violent or inappropriate materials.
- Give specific examples of actions that can compromise their privacy. Try asking questions like, “Have you ever told someone you know online but not in real life what school you go to?”
- Emphasize that most things done online are permanent. They can sometimes be found online even after profiles appear to be deactivated or deleted.
Explain Common Online Scams
Your child might not have a clue what information is too sensitive to share publicly. You can help by establishing clear boundaries about which information is appropriate to post and share via messages.
Non-shareable information might include the following:
- Their full name
- Where they attend school
- Their home address
- Their cell phone number and email addresses
- Banking information and their social security number
Social media privacy issues aren’t always obvious. Scammers can use all kinds of creative ways to get personal or financial information from kids.
You might find it helpful to talk about some of the examples below with your kids, especially if they are older and more independent on social media.
- What they are: Shady developers sometimes create apps that are used to harvest personal data, spy on devices, or illegitimately charge credit cards.
- What kids can do: Don’t provide payment information without verifying the app’s quality and reputation.
- What they are: Has your child ever gotten excited about a contest or promotion online that promises cool swag or cash prizes? Fake contests usually look like giveaways or one-time offers that are too good to be true.
- What kids can do: Ask parents to check the legitimacy of a contest before providing personal data or payment information.
- What it is: Phishing is used to get access to protected personal accounts like online banking.
- What kids can do: Don’t reply to messages from people they don’t know. Don’t click on unfamiliar links. Be careful when browsing away from their home Wi-Fi.
Viruses or Malware
- What they are: Malware is used for all kinds of bad purposes, from stealing passwords to turning on webcams.
- What kids can do: Don’t open links from strangers. Ask for help before downloading a new app or file. Remind your kids that attackers could even use one of their friend’s profiles or accounts to send harmful content and links.
- What it is: Minors can experience identity theft. By using private personal information, cyber criminals can open fake accounts at retailers, rent properties, falsify tax returns, and much more.
- What kids can do: Keep their personal information private. Partner with their parents to keep track of their data through monitoring tools.
For older kids (about 16 and up), discussing social media privacy issues might actually provide a good opportunity to teach other important life skills.
Talk About Advertising and Data
These topics are really important for teaching your kids about social media and privacy. For young kids (below 13), it might be sufficient to set controls and rules for their usage. However, older kids can probably begin to understand how social media companies use the information they share. The apps are “looking at” content that they might think is personal and private, like:
- Private messages and personal photos
- Browsing history and location data
- Online purchases
There are some practical steps that parents can take to help kids keep nosy apps out of their business:
- Follow age requirements for apps. Research shows that kids are starting to use social media at younger ages. Most major social media apps (e.g., Instagram, TikTok, WhatsApp, etc.) have a minimum age requirement of at least 13 years old, but they don’t ask for verification or proof of age.
- Change app settings to maximize privacy. Apps and websites that serve children are required by law to say what information they collect and use.
- Make profiles private. This will limit what snooping visitors can see, regardless of their intentions.
- Eliminate personal information from accounts and profiles if it’s not needed. Social media apps will take as much information as users give them. The more information they get, the better they can allow advertisers to target each person.
Use Bark to Detect Social Media Privacy Issues
Parental control apps like Bark eliminate the stress and uncertainty around kids’ online activity. These are just a few of the ways that Bark can help parents resolve social media privacy issues:
- Restricting access to specific social media apps
- Receiving alerts when suspicious or alarming activity is detected (e.g., instances of self-harm or cyberbullying)
- Setting and enforcing schedules for certain app usage, or household Wi-Fi access
- Monitoring texts, emails, and more for problematic interactions
Talking to your kids about social media and privacy is often easier when you start young. Over time, your kids will likely begin to feel a sense of ownership for their online activity, awareness, and practices.
Learn more about BARK and the other security products Hunter has to offer.