As the summer break comes to an end, many students will be returning to school with mobile devices, such as smart phones/watches, tablets, and laptops. Although these devices are a great aid in helping students complete school assignments, projects as well as stay in touch with family and friends, there are numerous risks associated with using them. The goal is to help our students manage their digital lives responsibly. Here are a few simple steps parents and students may use to help keep them safe while using their devices.
For the student:
No matter what social media platform you are using, consider the type of information you are sharing with others and ensure you are limiting it to prevent your identity from being compromised. Here are the common cyber risks you may face when using social media:
- Sharing sensitive information – Sensitive information includes anything that can help a person steal your identity or find you, such as your full name, Social Security number, address, birthdate, phone number, or where you were born.
- Posting questionable content – Remember when applying for school or future employment, they may look at your social media accounts before bringing you on board. Questionable content can include pictures, videos, or opinions that may be offensive, rude, vile, seem unprofessional or mean and can damage your reputation or future opportunities.
- Tracking your location – Many social media platforms allow you to check in and broadcast your location, or automatically adds your location to photos and posts. Think twice before allowing that to happen.
- Remember, there is no ‘Delete’ button on the Internet. Think before you post, because even if you delete a post or picture from your profile only seconds after posting it, there is a good chance someone still saw it and may have obtained a copy.
- Don’t broadcast your location. Location or geo-tagging features on social networks is not the safest feature to activate. You could be telling a stalker exactly where to find you or telling a thief that you are not home.
- Connect only with people you trust. While some social networks might seem safer for connecting because of the limited personal information shared through them, keep your connections to people you know and trust.
- Keep certain things private from everyone. Certain information should be kept completely off your social networks to begin with. While it’s fun to have everyone wish you a happy birthday, or for long-lost friends to reconnect with you online, listing your date of birth with your full name and address gives potential identity thieves pertinent information. Other things to keep private includes sensitive pictures or information about friends and family. Just because you think something is amusing does not mean you should share it with the world.
- Speak up if you’re uncomfortable. If a friend posts something about you that makes you uncomfortable or you think is inappropriate, let them know. Likewise, stay open-minded if a friend approaches you because something you’ve posted makes them feel uncomfortable. People have different tolerances for how much the world knows about them, and it is important to respect those differences. Also report any instances of cyber bullying you see.
For the Parents:
BE AWARE OF WHAT YOUR KIDS POST ONLINE. Understand the cyber risks kids face when using social media. Talk to your kids about the following risks:
- What they are posting – Talk to your kids about the information they post online. Many of them don’t understand the damage they could do to their reputation or future prospects with unkind or angry posts and compromising photos or videos.
- Ensure your kids are not sharing or posting sensitive information – Sensitive information includes anything that can help a person steal your child’s identity or find them, such as their/your full name, Social Security number, address, birthdate, phone number, or place of birth.
- Compromising content – This includes photos or status updates that may damage your child’s reputation or future prospects.
- Unkind or angry content – This includes anything malicious directed at themselves or another person, as well as opinions that are probably better left unshared.
- Who they are connecting with – Social media allows kids to connect with their friends, but there is also a risk of connecting with someone they do not know or who is only pretending to be a kid.
- What level of privacy they are using – Many social media platforms have privacy settings that allow users to limit who sees their content. There are also settings for location tracking and geo-tagging of photos or statuses.
SIMPLE TIPS FOR PARENTS
- Talk to your kids. Help them understand the importance of owning their digital lives and only sharing things that will not put them in danger, negatively affect their future, or harm others.
- Emphasize the concept of credibility to teens: not everything they see on the Internet is true and people on the Internet may not be who they appear to be.
- Watch for changes in their behavior. If your child suddenly avoids the computer, it may be a sign they are being bullied or stalked online.
- Review security settings and privacy policies for the social media sites kids frequent. These settings are frequently updated so check back regularly.
- Periodically review social media accounts to ensure no questionable content or inappropriate connections are established.
The bottom-line mobile devices and the Internet are wonderful things and every step should be taken to be a good digital citizen. Unfortunately, even when you follow the proper steps, bad things can occur. Understanding what to do and where to go can be the difference maker.