As kids return to school, they may start to use social media more frequently, especially when playing with friends. Many of today’s apps, like Instagram and Snapchat, have new features that could put child safety at risk. We sat down with Kirsten Hoyt, Academic Dean for the College of Information Systems and Technology at the University of Phoenix to talk about back to school child safety. Kirsten can provide tips for parents to share with kids to make sure they stay safe and protected.
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Key takeaways on back to school child safety
- Talk to your kids about turning off location services for apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook
- Frequently posting on social media can make kids an easy target for hackers, discuss how often and how much your children should post
- Before giving them access to social media, teach your children to never message or respond to messages from people they do not know
Keep location services turned off
Instagram’s new location filters on Instagram Stories and Snapchat’s Snapmaps have huge privacy and security implications for all users, but particularly kids who may not know they have to opt out of them. Snapmaps, in particular, allows friends on the app to pinpoint a user’s location if they are not in “ghost mode.” Talk to your kids about keeping these turned off, particularly at school and on school-related trips.
Limit how often and how much they post
Social media is meant for interaction, but more frequent posting can make kids an easy target for hackers. Have a limit of how many times each week they should be posting to their friends on social media. Additionally, posting too much information on social media could be dangerous. Personal information, like birthdays, locations and contact information, should not be posted online or should at least only be visible to trusted friends.
Be selective about who you follow, and who you follow back
Fake accounts and bots are trending as a new method of stealing or hacking social accounts. Talk to your kids about having a vetting process for every user they decide to follow on social media, and for every user they allow to follow them. Check for red flags like inactivity, no profile pictures, and lack of followers.
Encourage your kids to limit their friends to people they actually know. It may seem cool to them to have thousands of friends, but connecting with strangers could put them in cyber and physical danger.
Messaging on social media isn’t the same as texting
As Instagram, Facebook and Twitter update their messaging policies, it’s now easier for strangers or even hackers to direct message someone without being social media friends or mutual followers. Encourage your kids to not reply to anyone they don’t know and notify you if they receive strange messages.
Do a sweep on privacy settings every three months
Have your kids do a regular check on their privacy settings and report back to you. Social media apps regularly change their privacy settings and add or delete features, so make sure you’re staying up-to- date by doing your own privacy homework. As a parent, it is smart to teach your kids how to keep their sites secure and act as an example for them to follow.
Ensure your digital safety when traveling
Cyberattacks are at an all-time high. When people (particularly parents) are away on work or vacation, they’re often distracted and not focused on staying safe online. But there are a few key steps they can take to protect themselves and their families.
- Avoid unprotected, public Wi-Fi
- Avoid sharing travel plans on social media
- Do a systems check before you leave
The first step is to limit how often you access sites and which sites you visit on public Wi-Fi. It is not a smart idea to do banking or check your emails in public.
Look to use your phone’s hotspot instead or wait until you get home. If you have to access these sites on public Wi-Fi, make sure you use strong passwords and diversify them across your accounts.
While sharing travel plans and memories of your trips on social media is a large part of vacation today, it can encourage cyber attackers to steal your information when you’re out of town and distracted. Everyday actions, like keeping location services turned on, uploading photos and tweeting about flight delays, can lead hackers to your social media sites to find information that can be used for phishing emails or to break into your home. To avoid this, wait until you’re back home to share details.
Traveling with out-of- date security software can leave you open to unwanted breaches. Before you leave for your trip, check your devices to make sure they have the most recent system updates, antivirus software and firewall protections, and double check that all devices and sensitive information are password or two-step- verification protected. Once you’re on vacation, make sure all devices are accounted for at all times, and invest in a privacy screen to keep information safe from curious eyes.