By Gary Zell
The best way to understand what your grandchildren are doing online is to have an open dialog with them about good digital citizenship. Asking them about the different apps they use and what they use them to do will help you stay current on their social networks. Talk to them about what is and isn’t appropriate for social media. Knowing the importance of social media to today’s kids and teens, it’s essential to make sure your grandchild is being safe online. Luckily, you can take specific steps to protect them.
The smartphone is king
Think you know what your grandchild is doing because you can track and control what they do or see on your desktop computer? Think again. Smartphone ownership among teens has skyrocketed, and according to Pew Research, it’s their primary device for going online. This makes it considerably harder to monitor activity and behavior because they can access the Internet anytime, anywhere.
Facebook is out
Chances are you’re probably friends with your grandkids on Facebook. Today’s teens know Facebook is where their parents and grandparents go to check on them, so they make sure their profile reflects them in the best light possible. They use Facebook to keep in touch with relatives and share family photos, but head to emerging social networks like Instagram and Snapchat to communicate with their friends.
Beware of Vine
Vine is a Twitter-owned app popular with teens that enables users to record six second videos and share them online. While Vine doesn’t permit sexually explicit content, it also has risks because videos can be publicly available and strangers can easily follow each other. It’s important your grandchildren make their posts private and closely monitor who their followers are.
Social networking has provided bullies 24-hour access to their victims. A recent study from nobullying.com found over half of young people report being victims of cyberbullying. If you suspect your grandchild is being cyberbullied, it’s important to have an open, informed conversation.
“Over half of young people report being victims of cyberbullying.”
The importance of privacy
Make sure your grandkids understand the importance of keeping their photos and personal information restricted to trusted friends and family. For example, Facebook allows users to update their privacy set- tings and ensure all sensitive information isn’t made public to anyone from predators to college admissions officers.
Gary Zell is the president, CEO and co-founder of ThirdParent, leading the company in its mission to provide families with the tools they need to safeguard their children online. ThirdParent can help families to locate where teens are active online and monitor for cyberbullying and other threats. A devoted family man, Gary spends his free time with his wife and three kids in Ringoes, N.J.