I have often heard my friends agonize over their kids when they reach the age where they are stepping into the world of social media. How do you let them communicate with their friends and use these tools reasonably without opening themselves up to the wrong people? Talk to kids about cyberbullyingUnfortunately, this is a real danger—people can assume a false identity, form  friendships with and gain the trust of children or youth and attempt to meet them in person.

Here are 10 safety tips to help introduce your kids to the online world, as well as a few pointers on how to protect their privacy.
  1. Talk to your kids about online safety issues.
  2. Build guidelines and a family agreement around Internet use just as you would for other activities.
  3. Be proactive in finding out who your kids are talking to online by spending time with them on the Internet.
  4. Keep the computer in a public area of your house.
  5. Never disclose personal details online.
  6. Tell your children to never post pictures of themselves online to people they do not know. Webcams and camera phones make it easy to take and transmit images—and too often, young people are lured into sending explicit pictures that are then used to manipulate them. Explain to your child that everything sent out over the Internet could last there forever.
  7. Reinforce that people online may not be who they say they are.
  8. Consider using parental controls like Internet filters or blocking software.
  9. Encourage open dialogue with your kids and offer a “No-Questions-Asked Bailout” as a safety net if they feel they could be in danger.
  10. Be constructive about good places for them to visit on the Internet.


Safety tips for social media

Social networking sites have privacy controls that limit access. Ensure that your child’s accounts have the privacy controls set so that only those known to them can access their information.
Explain that they should never accept an invitation from someone they don’t know—even if that person claims to be a friend of a friend.


Facebook privacy:

If you have a teenager, they will likely be eager to create their Facebook profile the day they turn 13. You should know that you can control who sees their posts on their timeline, as well as edit their privacy settings to ensure they don’t receive invitations from strangers.
 
1. Who can contact them?
Click the arrow in the top right corner and then click Settings.
Click Privacy in the left-hand menu.
Edit the “Who can see my stuff?”, “Who can contact me?” and “Who can look me up?” settings.

2. Who can post on their timeline?
Click the arrow in the top right corner and then click Settings.
Click Timeline and Tagging in the left-hand menu.
Edit who can post on their timeline and turn on the “Review posts you’re tagged in before the post appears on your timeline?” option.
 
3. Facebook Messenger mobile app
Facebook’s highly popular messaging service also comes with some risks. If your child uses a smartphone, be sure to turn off location data to prevent them from being located. It’s also recommended that you refrain from syncing all their contacts to their app to limit their contacts to their Facebook friends.
 
To learn more, see Facebook's safety guide for teens. 


Instagram privacy:

By default, all photos and videos shared on Instagram are public. To make sure that your child’s posts are only visible to their followers, go to Options and turn on the Private Account feature. When this option is activated, your child can approve or ignore follow requests, and only their followers will see their photos.
 
To learn more, see Instagram's safety guide.



Snapchat privacy:

Snapchat is particularly popular with young people. Although the content exchanged on the app is erased as soon as a message is viewed, you can control who can contact your child and who can see their snaps.
- Click the settings icon in the top right corner of your profile screen.
- Go the “Who can…” section and edit the “Contact Me”, “View My Story” and “See Me in Quick Add” options.
To learn more, see Snapchat's safety guide.