Technology is a lifeline for parents and an invaluable resource for their children – whether you’re seeking parenting advice on Facebook groups, helping your kids research a project for school, or sharing special moments with friends and family that live far away.
To get the most from social media, it’s helpful for parents and their teenage children to understand the tools that platforms such as Facebook provide to keep people safe online. “Parents know that technology has numerous benefits, along with some dangers,” says Jocelyne Muhutu-Rémy, Facebook’s Strategic Media Partnerships Manager for sub Saharan Africa.
“We are working hard to ensure our platforms offer people a safe and positive experience. We encourage parents to equip their children with the tools they need to safely navigate the online world. The Facebook parents portal offers some useful links, tips and tricks to help parents and their children have a positive experience online.”
For Safer Internet Day (February 11), Muhutu-Rémy offers some tips to help you and your children stay safe on social media platforms:
1. Talk about it before children are old enough to have an account
There are many great benefits to social media, but we also know there can be pitfalls. Start talking to your children about technology early to prepare them for the cyber-world. They are only allowed to join Facebook or Instagram at 13, so it helps if they are well-informed at the time they sign up.
2. Set some guidelines
Internet safety is a habit, much like looking both ways before crossing the road. Parents should talk about why they should be careful about what they share online or accept a friend request from a stranger.
3. Ask them to show you the ropes
If your teen is a keen tech user, why not ask them to show you their favourite music streaming app or social media platform and how it works? You can use this as a starting point to chat about issues of safety, privacy and security. This can also help you learn about any apps and services your teen is using.
4. Teach them to think critically
Critical thinking is a key skill for the street-smart Internet user. Chat to your children about how they can recognise scams, clickbait, fake news, and phishing attempts on the Internet.
5. Be a good role model
Adults should set the example for responsible device and app usage. For example, it’s wise to teach them to stop using their phones an hour before bedtime to help them get to sleep. That’s good advice for adults, too.
6. Help them to check and manage their privacy settings
Once your teen has set up a social media account, they can use tools and settings to help them manage their accounts. Facebook has privacy settings that help users control who can friend them, who can see their posts, and if they share details such as their location by default.
Instagram also offers many flexible tools to keep teens safe online including bullying filtering, pro-active caption warnings and sensitivity screens. Teens can also restrict unwanted interactions on their profiles and easily report accounts, comments and posts for bullying.
7. Tell them to report if they see something, they are concerned about
Facebook has developed a set of policies (Community Standards) that define what is and isn't allowed on its platforms. There is a link on nearly every Facebook and Instagram post where you can anonymously report abuse, bullying, harassment and other issues. Using this feature empowers teens to take action if they see something on their feed that is not right.
8. Teach teens to be password-savvy
Make sure they set strong passwords for their accounts and understand why they shouldn’t share their passwords with anyone. Encourage them to add an extra layer of security by enabling two-factor authentication. This requires an SMS security code when you log in from an unknown device.
9. Engage positively
You can enjoy capturing family moments with a video or photo and have fun together editing, adding filters and using the augmented reality features like bunny ears. While you’re enjoying yourselves, you can open conversations about tech and what it can do – and ask your teen to let you know if he or she encounters something bothersome or strange online.
10. Don’t overshare
Teach them not to share information such as their address, phone number or full birthdate on social media since it can make them susceptible to identity fraud or other forms of harassment.