06 Jul 2022

OPINION: Are youngsters safe in social networks and messengers? - Well, it depends.

Thorin McLoughlin is an IT Consultant in Carlow

Carlow Carlow Carlow


Youngsters safe in social networks and messengers? - Well, it depends.

At an ever earlier stage, many parents are being asked by their children whether they can use Facebook, WhatsApp or other offers. One argument that you, as parents, should know very well is "The others are allowed to do it too!

And in many cases, peer pressure actually plays a big role. If the majority of the class uses WhatsApp, Facebook, etc. for the exchange, a lot of information is either not noticed at all or too late.

Social networks and messengers are not suitable for all ages. This is also what the companies themselves think.

For example, the use of popular services such as Facebook or WhatsApp is subject to age restrictions by the providers, which can be read in the terms and conditions. What is the reason for this?

Younger users do not have sufficient security precautions in these services. They are therefore exposed to a higher degree of risk.

These include, for example, unintentional contact by strangers, as in the case of WhatsApp via telephone number or group invitations.

Even though there is no verification of actual age, parents should take these age warnings seriously and discuss with their child that the use of certain services may not (yet) be appropriate because they cannot protect themselves adequately.

In addition, there are also suitable offers for younger children to make their first experiences with communication via the Internet in the safest possible environment. You will find further tips and corresponding recommendations below.

Tip 1: Note the stage of development and age limit

For younger children or children who are still inexperienced on the Internet, messengers and social networks are not yet the right offer. Younger children should meet in special offers for children, which offer them a safe surfing space and the same communication possibilities, for example in the form of a moderated chat. These chats are only offered at certain times and adult moderators read the chat and intervene if necessary.

Tip 2: Talk about Internet experiences, protection settings, and how to handle unwanted contact requests

Arrange with your child to let you know if he or she receives strange contact requests or messages. Together you can then consider how best to proceed. Also ask your child regularly what he or she has experienced on the Internet. Your child should know about how to protect him or herself from unwanted contact or comments. Work with your child to familiarise him or herself with the appropriate protection settings and make sure your child can use these features competently.

This includes:

Knowing integrated detection systems. In this way, problematic content can be reported to the operator.
Being able to use the Ignore/Block function. This allows you to deny contacts access to your profile.
Being able to make the right privacy settings. Who can see my profile details, my status, who can link me? Etc.

Tip 3: Talk to your child about the handling of personal data and set an example

Consider together which personal information is worthy of protection and should not simply be passed on (name, address, telephone number, ...). Explain to your child that even personal pictures or films should not be passed on via the Internet. It is also important to explain the reason to your child - without creating exaggerated fears. Make it clear to your child that everyone has a "right to privacy". Therefore, personal data of friends or classmates should not be passed on just like that. But some parents also tend to distribute photos of their children via social networks or messengers. In the spirit of setting an example, therefore, check regularly how you or your family members present yourself or your children on the Internet.

Tip 4: Respect and politeness also applies on the Internet

Even if the person is not visible, there is always a person with real feelings sitting on the other side of the screen. Talk to your child about the fact that insults or embarrassing pictures have no place on the Internet.

Then kids are not only actively using these networks, their parents usually do, too.

so, please stop posting photos of your children visible to everyone on Facebook and Co! - Your children also have a privacy!

A snapshot on the beach or bathing naked in the paddling pool: Many of you post pictures of your little ones on Facebook and Co. And this is often visible to everyone, so without any security precautions in the privacy settings

Maybe you think the photos are cute today, but your child will find them endlessly embarrassing in a few years. Or your child might even get bullied by them. Even worse: Some use such photos and do so for their own purposes or publish them elsewhere.

Their children also have privacy. Children's photos basically have no place in social networks. After all, the Internet does not "forget" anything.

Show the pictures of your little ones to grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, friends and acquaintances rather personally. It's much nicer to talk about them together and smile.

If you need to share them with your family, since you're living in another country, at least set the privacy rules to family only. Still better send them via encrypted messenger.

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