New apps pop up seemingly out of nowhere. Although my job is working with social media, I find myself caught unaware. My daughters will be laughing at something they’re sharing on their phones and when I glide over to check out what it’s all about I discover they’re on an app I’ve never heard of. What the heck! Being vigilant is a busy job, but when it comes to social media and our children, it’s a necessary job. So, what about this app that has my daughters cracking up? The app looks age appropriate and harmless, but predators find ways to infiltrate and exploit. It is important to check your child’s phone, computer or tablet on a regular basis to make sure no inappropriate content is being sent to them. But, there are other steps parents need to take to safeguard their children.
One common mistake parents make is allowing their children to create a username that incorporates their name, information about their age and location or interests. These small pieces of data are enough for a predator to start piecing together a profile of a child and give predators tools that can be used to find more information to manipulate kids. By following these simple guidelines, parents can help make sure online predators are not targeting their children.
Stop Kids from Duplicating Usernames – Just like recycling a password is a bad idea kids should not use the same username to log into different online accounts. Having one common username across accounts just makes it easier for criminals to search for and find details about a child’s life.
Keep Personal Details Private – If an app or website requires kids to fill out a profile do not let them enter personally identifying details like their full name, birthdate, age or address. If they cannot use a site without supplying these details either supply a false answer to the questions or do not allow your child to use that site/app.
Create Unique Email Addresses for Each App/Site – Some email providers including Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo allow users to alter their email address into infinite number of disposable addresses. For example if your child’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and he/she wants to sign up for a new gaming site you can alter his/her email address just for that site by adding an identifier to it such as shauntips+ABCGamingFun@gmail.com. This keeps your child’s actual email address private and can help stop criminals from being able to track online history simply by searching for an email address.
Stay Vigilant – Regularly checking what apps your child is using and what websites are being visited is the first line of defense. If anything looks suspicious or if you are unsure what something is, ask your child. If he/she cannot explain to your satisfaction what the app is then delete it and block it.
Email Addresses and Usernames Do Not Mix – Linking a username with an email address can simplify a predator’s search for personal information. Using trial and error a criminal can add common email providers to a username, run a search and pull up social media accounts and any other sites where an email address was used to create a profile.
If you have advice on how to keep our children safe while using tech devices please share in the comments below. Thank you!
(*SNDR.com gives parents tools to stay up to date on latest threats. For more information about protecting your security and privacy online, visit: www.sndr.com. This information was shared, with permission.)