child on facebookThe vast majority of children use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. However, many children do not realise how public the photos and comments they put on Facebook and Twitter are. They may make comments on these sites that can get them in trouble. For example, some children may be rude about other children, parents or teachers on Facebook and Twitter, without realising who can see their comments. Parents should explain to their child that when they put a comment on a social networking site that all the friends of friends can see their comments. For example, if they make a comment on their friend’s Facebook page and their friend has made their parent a Facebook friend, then their friend’s parent can see this comment too.

Another more worrying concern is that many children have given out personal photos of themselves and physical descriptions to people they don’t know on Facebook. This can put children at risk. Furthermore, some children will post embarrassing photos of themselves on Facebook or spread rumours about other people, without realising the full consequences of their actions. Parents can discuss the dangers of social networking with their children as a preventative measure.

Geotagging enables your geographical location to be added to photographs, videos and websites. This means that if your child uploads photographs of themselves onto Twitter or Facebook, then a complete stranger can pinpoint the exact location of where the photos were taken. Therefore, it is a good idea to disable geotagging on your child’s mobile. Explain to your child what geotagging means and tell them never to click “allow” when geotagging-enabled mobile apps ask for permission.

Instagram is a photo-sharing application, which allows any photograph uploaded to be viewed by anyone, anywhere. It is also possible to include the location of the photograph. Parents can make sure their child adds privacy settings before using the application to at least ensure that the location of the photograph is private. Children under 13-years-old should not be allowed to use Instagram as they may come across disturbing or pornographic images.

Although there are dangers in using social media, it is probably not a good idea for parents to over-react by banning its use. Parents just need to make their children aware of the dangers. However, it is sensible to turn off the internet when your child is doing homework on the computer so that they aren’t constantly bombarded with messages from their friends.

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