Social media networks are a dime a dozen today, and some of the most popular among teens may not be safe. Photo sharing sites such as Instagram and Snapchat make it easy for teens to share pictures, but don’t have enough safeguards to prevent inappropriate shots.
Instagram says you must be at least 13 to sign up for their site. Do they do a good job of enforcing this rule, or are they letting underage kids get in? Well, this depends entirely on the kid trying to sign up. It’s pretty typical for teens and tweens to be good at getting around the internet. Often, kids are the authority for their parents on how things work online, which can put you in a tight spot. Make sure to take some time to get comfortable with how online sites like these work, and don’t rely on kids to show you everything.
What are some of the dangers?
On Snapchat, users are told images will be deleted within 10 seconds, never to be seen again. This will give teens a false sense of security. No matter what any site says, it’s a good idea to keep this rule of thumb in mind: once it’s on the internet, it’s forever.
For example, not long ago Justin Bieber used Instagram to
post a picture of his butt. After it was deleted, it could still easily be found on the web because it was taken and posted elsewhere. Of course, your kids aren’t famous celebrities with paparazzi following their every move, but they certainly will have friends who might feel no qualms about taking their pictures and reposting them.
Kids have to be extra careful how they handle inappropriate pictures, too. There have been cases where teens were charged with crimes such as possession and distribution of child pornography, even when the photo was of them. Also, if an embarrassing shot of them goes viral, they may face severe bullying, which can lead to them attempting to harm themselves.
How to keep your kids safe
One of the biggest things you can do is to talk to your child about not posting anything they don’t want everyone in the world to see. Tell them if they don’t want you or their grandparents to see it, then don’t post it. Teach them to consider the picture for a minute before posting; a cooling off period might make them reconsider. Also, it’s a good idea to let them know there can be legal repercussions for posting inappropriate pictures online, or even sending them via text.
Another important step is to make sure you are regularly monitoring their social media sites to watch for unsafe behavior. You need to know their passwords to be sure you can see everything they post. You can also sign up for programs or apps that help you keep track of what your kids are doing online.