Crime Watch

Crime Watch: Parents must set rules for kids’ use of social media

 

Special to The Miami Herald

School has started, and many of you emailed me regarding the social networking sites that your kids are using. Nowadays it’s not just the computer at home, but also those fancy phones you have chosen to give your kids.

Parents, you need to consider blocking their phones from some of these sites. They are not needed, and they present a danger. Below is information provided by the National Crime Prevention Council that you will find helpful.

Facebook and Twitter are some of the top social networking websites and have become an online craze for teens and for many adults. You’ve probably also heard some stories about how pedophiles are surfing these pages for their next targets, or how teens are having their identities stolen after posting too much information online.

As a parent, you can teach your children how to safely use social networking websites. Below are some ways that you can protect your children and their personal information online.

• Tell your children not to post any identifying information online. This includes their cell phone number, address, hometown, school name, and anything else that a stranger could use to locate them.

• Remind your children never to give out their passwords to anyone but you — not even to their friends. Explain that if someone has their password, they could post embarrassing and unsafe information about them on their personal pages and even pose as them to talk to other people.

• Make sure that children understand that some people they meet online may not be who they say they are. Explain that on the Internet many people are not truthful about their identity and may even pretend to be someone else. It’s important to stress that young people should never meet people they met online face-to-face.

• Facebook and some other social networking websites let users set their profiles to private so that only their friends can contact them. Make sure younger teens’ profiles are set to private.

• Set clear rules that you can all agree on regarding what your children are allowed to do online. Make sure you decide if your children are allowed to post photos of themselves and open accounts without your permission.

• Have your children tell you if they ever see anything online that makes them uncomfortable. Make sure they understand that you won’t blame them.

• Ask them to come to you if anything happens online that hurts or scares them. Tell them that you won’t punish them by banning them from the Internet — this is a big reason why many kids don’t talk to their parents.

I hope this information is helpful to you and remember to keep those computers where you can see them when you are home. Ask questions if you see something on the screen you are not comfortable with. And remember: You are the parent.

For more information, call our office and we will be happy to send you brochures on cyber-bullying, Internet safety and other topics concerning the Internet.

Next weekend is Labor Day the last long weekend for a while have fun but remember to not drink and drive and use those seatbelts.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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