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Anyone that has been around children these days knows that the popularity of social networking continues to grow among kids. Social networking sites can provide a secure way for kids to connect with each other, but they can also be exploited for any number of disreputable purposes. Recent headlines about dangerous online challenges to inappropriate adult content underscore the need for parents to take specific steps to keep their kids safe online.

For some parents, their kids know more about computers and the Internet than they do, however, it’s important to remember that kids aren’t old enough to understand all the various threats that lurk online. Here are important things to discuss with your children:

  • Explain the Difference Between Sharing and Oversharing – While social networking is about sharing photos, thoughts, and experiences, explain to your kids that they should never share personal information such as phone numbers, address, bank account numbers, passwords or their Social Security numbers. Also talk about what constitutes inappropriate photos or language and stress the fact that—while you may be able to delete them—you can never fully take them back.
  • “Never talk to strangers” applies online too – One of the first rules we teach our kids is to never talk to strangers; remind them that the rule holds true when online.
  • Set strict privacy settings – Social networking sites let users determine whom they want to share information with. Talk to your child about restricting
  • Keep the channels of communication open – Let your kids know that you are always ready to talk if they are ever threatened, bullied, or feel uncomfortable about an experience they had online.
  • Join them online -If you haven’t already, set up your own account in the same social networks. This will help you better understand what social networking is all about. You can also then “Friend” your child and keep an unobtrusive eye on what they are doing.
  • Federal law requires sites collecting identifying information from children under 13 to get a parent’s consent first.
  • Inappropriate Content on Apps – Some apps that claim to appeal to children may also carry adult-themed content, so make sure to preview content on the app before allowing your child to use it.

Sources:, FTC, and the National Cybersecurity Alliance

To learn more about the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), check out the FTC’s COPPA Resource Page. For more information on safeguarding your child’s privacy, go to BBB Tip: Managing your child’s online privacy and Tips For Parents on Raising Privacy-Savvy Kids by the National Cybersecurity Alliance.

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