Just when I think I’ve done a good job talking to my kids about online safety, something else comes up. Social media is complicated and when you’re dealing with kids, it’s even more complicated.
Last year, I let my then 9 year old get his own twitter account. His teacher wanted all the students to participate in a month-long #mathphotoaday challenge and if the kids didn’t have their own twitter accounts, they could use their parents’.
I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of him being on twitter, but I didn’t want him to use mine either. And I also didn’t want him to miss out on this opportunity. He was already 6 months ahead of the rest of his class in his math work and I figured this could be a fun challenge for him.
So, I set up his account(after seeing that twitter’s TOS now didn’t have a clear age restriction any more), protected his tweets, talked to him about what he could and couldn’t post, then set him up on hootsuite, with columns for #mathphotoaday, his teacher’s tweets, his mentions, and a dm in and outbox. He didn’t have his password, so he couldn’t change anything, and all notifications came to my email.
He liked doing the math challenge and when his teacher moved this summer, he used twitter to still chat all things math with him. Plus, he can dm me any time, whether he’s at school and needs something or if he’s at home and I’m not.
He didn’t use it much this fall and I basically stopped thinking about it(except for the occasional dm exchange between us).
But then one day, all these dm’s showed up in my email, from someone I didn’t know and whom I was pretty sure my son didn’t know. They were about an online game they were playing and were pretty bossy, telling my son what he should be doing in the game. I noticed them after my son was already asleep, so I figured I’d talk to him about it the next day.
The next afternoon, I asked him about it and he said that that player had asked him if he was on twitter and that was how they were messaging. I explained why this wasn’t okay and thought that was the end of it.
A few nights later, a slew of dm’s came through my inbox, asking why my son wasn’t on, telling him he had to answer “or else,” and then said something about “you have time to talk to Mr. (teacher name). Are they giving you too much homework at (school name here)”
And I freaked out. My son knew not to mention identifying details about himself online but this person had seen my son’s tweets to his former teacher and assumed that was his current teacher and school(seeing the name of the school where that teacher is now at in the teacher’s bio). Thankfully, that isn’t his teacher and that school is actually all the way across the country. But it made me realize just how much people can learn about you, even if you aren’t the one to directly post the information.
So, it was time for yet another lesson in online do’s and don’ts.
AVG Technologies and Childnet International partnered to publish an interactive e-book series, Magda and Mo, to help parents and children navigate tricky Internet safety topics such as cyberbullying and safe searching.
There’s a book for the 3+ set, another for 5+, and one for 7+. As you go through the books with your kids, there are points where your kids have to decide what they would do in those situations, which is a great way to spark conversation about the internet safety issues your kids will encounter.
Another great product is AVG PrivacyFix, which helps control and lock-in your privacy on your PC, mobile device and tablet. With a personal, easy-to-use dashboard, you’re able to monitor and adjust your privacy settings online and prevent third parties from tracking your activities and location. You can download it for free.