Social media is a great way to connect with others, get information, and play games. Most of the time, our online activities are harmless fun. But sometimes, an activity or interaction that seems innocuous can be dangerous or damaging to your child. Social media and cyber expert Tyler Cohen Wood, author of Catching the Catfishers: Disarm the Online Pretenders, Predators, and Perpetrators Who Are Out To Ruin Your Life is here to share seven things you need to know about keeping your kids safe online. What you read may surprise you.
1. You create your child’s online identity for life.
Remember that the things you post today may affect your child later.
Can your posts make your child look like a bad candidate to college boards or future employers? Are you setting him or her up for bullying or teasing in school? It is great to use social media to create your child’s identity – you just need to be cognizant of what you want that identity to be. Every post about your child is another piece of his or her online identity.
2. YOUR online activities can make your kids targets for predators.
Parents unknowingly give up information about their children that can make them targets. In my book, I tell the story of a 47 year-old suspected predator who had begun an online relationship with an 11 year-old girl. He’d convinced her that he was a 13 year-old boy she had met at a party. He knew many details about her life.
It turned out that he had gotten those details – and put together a detailed profile to target the girl – by regularly visiting the girl’s mother’s social media pages, which had no privacy settings and where she talked freely about the girl. The story is a powerful example of how important it is to really consider what you are posting online about your children.
3. Be careful of EXIF data.
EXIF data is information about the camera that took the photo. It includes the geographic location of where the photo was taken, which can show things like the exact location of your child’s preschool or bedroom. Some social media sites do not strip out EXIF data when you post photos, so that a predator who has access to your social media or a photo can easily obtain this information. Be careful about what specific location data you post or disclose about your child and turn off EXIF data on your camera. For Apple IOS 7, go to Settings/Select Privacy/Location Services and toggle the button next to “camera” so that it is no longer in the on position. For Android, go to the camera app, then Settings, and turn off the GPS tagging option.
4. Know what facelifting is.
Facelifting is when someone creates a profile of another person, claiming to be that person. This is a tool that cyberbullies use to torment other kids. They will create a social media page pretending to be your child and post defamatory content to humiliate, hurt and embarrass your child. Almost all social media sites prohibit this in their terms of service. If your child is a victim of facelifting, you can either contact the authorities (if you plan on pressing charges), or contact the social media site to get the content removed.
5. Know the “crucial first response” you should take when cyberbullying is suspected.
Most parents’ first inclination is to call the parents of the child that they suspect to be the cyberbully. However, if you plan to get the authorities involved, you will want to preserve the evidence before it can be removed. Write down all details such as date, time and a description of the event. Use a tool like Google Chrome’s Webpage Screenshot Capture, which will capture the complete site and all evidence. The caveat is that if the cyberbully has posted what appears to be explicit content of a minor – do not capture the content. Call the authorities immediately.
6. Teach kids how to identify online deception. For example, they should know:
No bank, online funding source (like Paypal) or other financial entity will ever send you an email asking for your personal information.
If a person that your child has met online will not meet through video, that is a red flag that may indicate the person is not who they claim to be.
If a person that your child has met online never really answers your questions and attempts to distract you when you ask specific details, beware.
7. Use PUPIL to keep your kids safe:
Personal information — Do not disclose personal information such as name, school or other details that give a predator of pattern of your child’s life.
Unique user name and photos — If an app or online game requires a username or profile photo, use a different username or photo than the ones you or your child use on social media. If you don’t, anyone can easily do a photo search, find your personal social media site and associate you.
Password — Know your child’s passwords to keep track of what they download.
Inform — Educate yourself about the apps your children are using and teach your children about the dangerous consequences of using these apps.
Location Services — Turn off EXIF data and location services so that predators cannot find your child.
My book has several checklists of other things you can do to keep your children safe or assess if someone you, or your child, is communicating with online is actually who they say they are. Remember, in social media, knowledge is safety. Use your social networks smartly, and teach your kids how to as well.
Tyler Cohen Wood is an expert in social media and cyber issues. She is a senior officer and a Cyber Branch Chief for the Defense Intelligence Agency within the Department of Defense (DoD). Her new book is Catching the Catfishers: Disarm the Online Pretenders, Predators, and Perpetrators Who Are Out To Ruin Your Life. She previously worked for the DoD Cyber Crime Center as a senior digital forensic analyst, using her expertise in intrusion, malware analysis, and major crimes to bring about many successful prosecutions.