Growing up with technology has many advantages for children but it comes with new risks. Guide to Social Platforms comes especially handy for parents and caretakers of children to traverse safely on these networking platforms. Learn how to keep your children safe by learning about Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat & You Tube
Since the inception of social media websites, children of all age groups are being enticed by the concept of getting ‘likes’ on their pictures. The more the number of ‘likes’, the more popular they are considered among their peers. This often leads to posting pictures publicly, even by those who know better do not mind bending the rules for a few more ‘likes’.
Even though most social media websites have an age limit for signing up, it is still very easy for the child to lie about their age online. Since parents cannot be there at every step to continuously check on their browsing history or keep their children away from cyber creeps, it is important for them to understand and rely on the several privacy options available on the Internet.
Parents can start by keeping open communication lines with their children, especially if they have teenagers. Learning about the risks associated with these websites and making sure your child also understands them is one of the most effective ways of ensuring your child’s online safety. But just knowing about them will not stop the online creeps from making contact with your children, both the parent and the child needs to take action as well.
Here are simple instructions on the various privacy settings offered by popular social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and You Tube, which ensures your teenager’s safety online:
Things parents need to know about Facebook and its privacy settings
There must hardly be any human on this planet that has not heard about Facebook. It has become one of the largest social media websites on the Internet. Although Facebook requires children to declare their age (children below the age of 13 years cannot join the site) before signing up, they do not ask for ID verification beforehand. This is where parents need to ensure that if their child is asking permission, it is better to say yes then no. Laying down the following ground rules will ensure they think twice before doing anything inappropriate:
Parents get access to the password of the account, which they cannot change without the parents’ knowledge.
Getting approval from parents before posting any photo or video on Facebook.
Befriending them on Facebook and regularly checking their profile page.
Ensuring the children know about the privacy settings offered by Facebook, which are enabled for their profile.
Facebook Privacy Settings
Privacy settings on Facebook allow the user to block unwanted attention and keep their photos and videos safe from the public.
Privacy Settings and Tools: Start by clicking the ‘question mark’ icon and then the “privacy shortcuts’ option on the top right corner of the screen. From the drop down menu, click on ‘Who can see my stuff’ and then change the settings to ‘Friends’. This ensures that the content that your child posts on the site is only visible to their friends. The next option on the drop down list ‘Who can contact me’ allows the user to limit who can send them friend requests. Parents can change the setting to ‘Friends of Friends’, which is the safest option available. The last option ‘How do I stop someone from bothering me’, allows the parents to block anyone whom they do not want their child to interact with.
On the bottom of the drop menu, ‘See more settings’ allow parents to prevent anyone from searching their children based on their phone numbers or email address. Also, switch off the option for Facebook to link your child’s profile with search engines. This can be done using the last option on this page. This way any search websites like Google, Yahoo and more cannot display your child’s profile on the Internet.
Timeline and Tagging: On the left hand side of the page, the option Timeline and Tagging allows the parents to limit all the posts uploaded by your child to be visible only for friends. You can do this by settings all the options to ‘Friends’. Here, parents can also turn on the option to review any posts or videos in which your child has been tagged. This helps in keeping any cyber bullies or inappropriate pictures at bay.
Apps: This is probably one of the most underused sections of Facebook. Any time your child uses an application on the site, they allow the app access to their personal data. Even though this step may take time, go through each application in this section separately and change the setting to ‘Only Me’ and disable any other visibility permissions including your personal information you want the app to use. Moreover, if you do not recognize any application or do not trust it, it is better to remove it completely.
Scroll a little more down, under the ‘Apps other use’ section, click edit and uncheck all the options that you see over there. This part allows apps that your child’s Facebook friends use, to get access to your child’s information.
Security: Another important privacy setting on Facebook, this tab allows the user to get login alerts if someone else has logged into their account. You can also keep your main account password separately from those in specific apps. You can also manage the trusted contacts in case the account is inaccessible in the future.
Things parents need to know about Snapchat and its privacy settings
Snapchat allows the users to communicate with their friends via photos, which only last for a chosen period of time. It basically allows all activities between a close knit of friends that would be a bit more difficult on larger social platforms like Facebook. However, there are some things to be kept in mind before letting your child download this app:
Contrary to the popular belief, Snapchat photos are forever. Even though the app sends notifications to the user when someone clicks a screenshot, cyberbullies can easily use another camera to click a snapshot of the photo. Thus, children need to keep this in mind before sharing any inappropriate pictures.
Snapchat also owns the rights to every photo you share through the app. This means that they have complete royalty-free, non-exclusive rights to reproduce, license, modify or use your pictures, subjected to the privacy settings of the user.
Snapchat Privacy Settings
Unlike Facebook, privacy settings for Snapchat are much simpler and easier to understand. After launching the application, click on the ghost symbol on the top of the screen and then click on settings. Under ‘who can’ section, parents can set both the features of ‘View my story’ and ‘Contact me’ to friends. This ensures there is no unwanted attention from spammers. The list can also be customized to certain people. Users can also switch on the two-step verification login for Snapchat from new devices.
Things parents need to know about Instagram and its privacy settings
Similar to Snapchat, Instagram allows the user to share or post photos and videos instantly. However, unlike Snapchat, if your profile is public anyone (including those who are not even on the app) can see those photos. The only way to combat this is by ensuring your child has a private profile. Also, ensure your child is marking their location on the app, only after they have left that place.
Instagram Privacy Settings
Public to Private Profile: By default, when you sign up for an Instagram account, your profile is public. Individuals have to personally change this setting in the app. However, this can be only done in the mobile app and not on the computer. A private profile also requires you to manually allow a specific person to follow you on the app, which cannot be done on a public profile.
Blocking Unwanted Followers: Nevertheless, keep in mind that when you switch from public to private, people who were already following you before will still be able to see your photos. The only way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to individually block them. This can be done by going to their profile and tapping on the three dots on the top of the screen. Then tap on ‘block user’ to make sure they are not following you on the app anymore.
Things parents need to know about YouTube and its privacy settings
Due to the wide variety of content available on YouTube, everyone can search for something that they are interested in. From fashion tips to mindless comedies, YouTube has it all.
Just like Facebook, YouTube also has an age limit for signing up. It requires parental permission for children between the age of 13 and 18 years.
YouTube members can easily look for any videos, comment on them and even upload their own. For children below the age of 13 years, there is also a free YouTube app that does not allow any adult content.
For safety, it is best to ensure that your child is not uploading any video that gives information about their whereabouts.
The ads played before a video is actually a good sign. To qualify for advertising and earn money, YouTube users need to apply for YouTube partnership by sending sample videos, which means the app will delete any videos with inappropriate or vulgar content.
YouTube Privacy Settings
Safety Mode: Even though YouTube is only for children above the age of 13 years, there might still be content on the app, which parents might think is not suitable for their teen. To prevent this, turn on the safety mode for any video. Simply go to that particular YouTube page, scroll down and click on the tab that says ‘Safety’.
Private Uploads: If you don’t want any of your child’s subscriptions to be public, go to You Tube’s home page and log in with your details. Go to the ‘privacy’ tab on the left-hand side, check all the options under it and finally click on ‘save’.
Restricted Mode: Parents also have the option to switch on restricted mode browsing for their children. Even though it is not 100% filtered, this mode ensures that all the videos that have been flagged by other users are hidden. For this, go to YouTube home page, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on ‘Restricted Mode’. Switch it on and save. However, this option is only saved for the current browser.
Google Ad Settings: Parents can even manage the ads that are shown before the videos. For this, go to privacy and click on ‘Google Ad Settings’. Under this, you can manually choose the topics for which you prefer the ads to be shown. That being said, if you prefer complete privacy, you can also switch off the option of personalized ads completely by toggling the on/off button under ‘Ads Personalization’.
While all the above privacy settings help in protecting the privacy of your child, however, none can guarantee total protection. The best and the most effective way to protect your child from unwanted attention is to keep all communication lines open with them. They should feel completely comfortable and safe in sharing with you, especially if they are facing cyberbullying. With open communication and correct privacy settings, all the above applications can actually be encouraging in promoting responsible behaviour among teens.