3Social Networks and Email Accounts

Email Safety Tips

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As your children grow up, they will begin to want to use their own email account. Many schools will create email accounts for their students in order to teach them valuable computer skills or to assign homework. As a result, you need to teach your child how to use their email account safely. Listed below are several email safety tips which you can teach to your child:

  • Do not share your email password with anyone
  • Do not open any emails, links or attachments from people whom you don't know
  • Do not open or reply to spam emails or chain emails
  • Do not share your personal information (such as your phone number or home address) in an email
  • Always log out of your email account when you are finished using it

As well as teaching your child responsible email practices, you can also implement various software and parental control settings in order to protect your child whilst they use their email account. Listed below are several steps you can take to protect your child whilst they use email:

  • Set-up free child friendly email services: There are a variety of email accounts designed specifically for children. For instance, KOL is a child friendly version of an AOL email account through which your children can talk to their friends and play games; all whilst being protected by comprehensive parental control settings. Similarly, ZooBuh is a web-based mail service which equips parents with complete control over your children's email activities. The default email account settings only allow your child to receive emails from users within their approved-contact list and, in turn, your children can only send emails to those same approved users. As well as these settings, ZooBuh boasts a "bad words filter" which only enables your child to view pre-approved acceptable email content.
  • Anti- virus software: If you regularly upgrade your computer's anti-virus software, you can prevent your children from accessing malware content or viruses. For example, it is recommended that you utilise anti-virus software which automatically scans your child's emails and their attachments for viruses or Trojans. This software will not let your child download any attachments unless they have been extensively scanned and deemed safe to access.
  • Keep your computer's firewall switched on at all times: Similarly to anti-virus software, keeping your firewall on at all times will protect your computer from viruses, Trojans and other malware content.

Social Networking Sites

In today's technological society, an increasing number of children are frequenting social networking sites.

According to a recent infographic;

  • 95% of 12 to 17 years olds use the Internet and 81% of 12 to 17 year olds use social media,
  • Over 50% of adolescents log in to social networking sites more than once a day,
  • Although many social networking sites do not allow users under 13 years of age to create an account, 21% of children under 13 still manage to use social networking sites,
  • 38% of children aged between 8 and 12 use Facebook.

These ever-increasing figures mean that parents need to be vigilant of their children's social media activities in order to protect them from online dangers. It is important that you teach your children how to protect their personal information and report any issues that they encounter whilst using social networking sites. You need to teach your child about privacy and the various types of information and content which they should and should not share whilst using social networking sites. As Dana Boyd, the author of It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, writes;

"social media services like Facebook and Twitter are providing teens with new opportunities to participate in public life, and this, more than anything else, is what concerns many anxious adults...teens are generally more comfortable with—and tend to be less skeptical of—social media than adults. They don’t try to analyze how things are different because of technology; they simply try to relate to a public world in which technology is a given".

As a result, many children share too much of their personal information across social networks without considering the people who can access these private details. Consequently, it is increasingly important for parents to teach children about the difference between real life and their online activities as well as advising your children how to restrict the information which they share online. It is crucial that you explain to you children that, just because they talk to someone on social networking sites, that does not mean the person to whom they are talking is who they claim to be. Therefore, as a rule you should teach your children to:

  • Keep their passwords for social media sites to themselves, and not to list their full name, email address, phone number or home address on any of their social networking profiles,

  • Report any online abuse as soon as it occurs. Moreover, inform your child not to respond to any abusive comments which they receive online,

  • Implement your computer's default Internet safety features with regards to emails and social networks. These measures will ensure that your child can only be contact by users, which they know, as well as equipping them with the ability to block any unwanted messages from suspicious or offensive users.

For instance, in recent years there has been a significant rise in the cases of cyber bullying amongst young children and teenagers. "Cyber bullying" is the term used to describe when one person or a group of people threaten, tease or embarrass someone else online. One of the most worrying aspects of cyber bullying is the fact that many children do not report it or even tell their parents that they are being bullied. A study which was carried out by We Inspire Futures revealed that only 10% of parents are aware that their child is a victim of cyber bullying.

Subsequently, it is imperative that you talk with your child in order to find out whether they have experienced cyber bullying in any form. Furthermore, you need to teach your children how to report social media issues so that they know what to do if they, or one of their friends, becomes the victim of cyber bullying. There are several support websites that you and your child can visit to receive advice about cyber bullying. Amongst these various sites include:

It is extremely important that you talk with your child regularly about social networking sites and acceptable online behaviour. Explain to them that bullying is always wrong; irrespective of whether it takes place online or in person. If your children know that they can come to your for advice regarding social networking sites, then you will be more likely to have an open and honest relationship regarding their online use. Make sure that your children know that if they receive any offensive or suspicious messages from known or unknown users that they can report them to you. It is also advisable that you sit down with your child and demonstrate to them how to report any issues that they encounter on social networking sites.

Fortunately, social networking sites have a series of measures, which you can follow if you wish to report an issue or block a specific user from viewing or commenting upon your profile. Listed below are two of the most popular social networking sites and their policies for reporting issues:

Facebook:

As matters stand, Facebook is one of the world's most popular social networks, attracting over 1.28 billion active monthly users. However, many of these users neglect to implement sufficient privacy measures as studies show that 25% of Facebook users are currently active without any privacy settings. Therefore, it is crucial that you check your child's Facebook profile and ensure they have comprehensive privacy settings in place which protect their personal information. By controlling who can view your child's information, you protect them from online users who they do not know in real life.

On Facebook, your child will have a Timeline whereupon they can post photos, comments, videos and interact with their friends. In order to control who can view your child's Timeline information, click on 'Update Info' which is located underneath your child's cover photo. From here, you can click the 'Edit' button next to the specific information you wish to edit. Each piece of information, which is visible on your child’s Timeline, will have an audience selector so that you can tailor who is allowed access to it.

It is also possible to control who sees the information which other people post onto your child's Timeline. If your child is tagged in a photos, post, or app activity you can pre-emptively approve or dismiss these tags by switching on Timeline review. Subsequently, you can set an audience for who can see posts your child has been tagged in on their Timeline. To do this, select 'Settings' on the top right hand side of the page, click 'Timeline and Tagging' in the left column and search for 'Who can see what others post on your Timeline?'. Upon clicking 'Edit', you can select which of your child's friends can view your child's social media content.

There is also a helpful View As tool, which enables you to see what your child's Timeline looks like to other people who visit their profile. By sitting down with your child and demonstrating these process to them, you can educate your child how to use their Facebook profile in a way which protects their privacy and personal information.

Furthermore, if your child wishes to alter who can view a post which they have already shared, you can teach them how to do so. What you need to do is return to the audience sector which was mentioned earlier and select a new audience. Select 'Settings' and then 'Privacy' from the left menu of your 'Account' page and you will be able to locate the 'Who can see my stuff?' section. Within this section, you can click on an option called 'Limit the audience for posts I've shared with friends of friends or Public'. By clicking on 'Limit Old Posts', you will be able to help your child alter their previous Facebook activity and safeguard their profile from future views.

For more information on how to adjust your child's privacy settings, simply click 'Account' at the top of any Facebook page and select 'Privacy Settings' in the dropdown menu that appears.

As well as improving your child's Facebook privacy settings, you can also teach them how to report an issue. For example, if they are being contacted by a suspicious online user or if they are receiving threatening or offensive comments from another user.

If your child is Facebook friends with someone with whom they no longer wish to share information, then there is the option to 'Unfriend them'. This is a very simple process; all your child has to do is visit this person's Facebook profile and select the 'Unfriend' icon, which is located on the right hand side of their timeline. Alternatively, if you wish not only to unfriend someone, but to also make it so that they can no longer view your child's profile at all on Facebook then you can 'Block' them. By blocking a person on Facebook, you will no longer be able to view one another's' profiles or locate one another in search results. To do this, go onto your 'Privacy Settings' and click on your block list. Now you can use the 'Report/Block' option, which is located on the right hand side of the person's timeline.

If the person who you wish to block has threatened or offended your child, you can also report them. If a person's content has violated Facebook's Terms in any way, simply use the 'Report' link next to the offending post, timeline or page. All reports made to Facebook are completely confidential so your child need not worry. Once you have submitted a report, Facebook will investigate the issue and decide upon an appropriate course of action.

Twitter:

If your child has a Twitter account, it is important that you educate them about the difference between 'public' and 'protected' Tweets. The default account setting for all Tweets is 'public'. This means that any of the 243 million active monthly Twitter users can view and comment upon your child's Tweets. Alternatively, accounts which have selected 'protected Tweets' operate a process through which you can approve each and every person who is allowed to view your child's Tweets. By doing so, you can designate a series of approved Twitter followers; thereby protecting your child from unwanted contact with strangers.

Fortunately, if you did not know about public and protected Tweets, once you have introduced these privacy settings they will be applied to all of your previous Tweets. This means that any Tweets which were previously public will now only be viewable and searchable by yourself and your approved followers.

By protecting your Tweets, any new followers will have to request your approval. This means that you and your child can decide who you want to interact with online. If you teach your child only to approve followers whom they know in real life, then you can safeguard them from potentially dangerous online strangers. These privacy settings also mean that only your approved followers will be allowed to retweet your child's Tweets and they will not be visible on Google searches. This will protect your child's personal information from being circulated across the Internet by unknown users.

In order to protect your child's Tweets, simply go to the 'Security and privacy settings' section of your child's Twitter profile and scroll down to the 'Tweet privacy' section. Once here, all you have to do is click the box which states 'Protect my Tweets' and click the 'Save' button at the bottom of the page to confirm your actions.

Twitter also have a comprehensive reports centre whereupon you can inform them of any offensive content or issues from which your child may be suffering. Simply visit 'Twitter's Help Center' and you will be able to inform the Twitter team of your issue in detail. As with Facebook, once you have reported an issue, Twitter will determine an appropriate course of action which protects your child's confidentiality.

Fundamentally, it is important that you investigate the privacy settings of all of the social networking sites, which your child visits. If you inform your child how to report issues on all of these sites, and how to protect their personal information, you can increase their safety whilst they are active on these sites.