We live in a world where it is not always easy to see the bad person lurking behind the bush. I feel bad for parents today. I don’t think the world was as dangerous when we were growing up as it is for the children today. Then again, if you think back over time, danger has always lurked for children, just in different ways.
For example, if you were a parent back when the west was just beginning to settle, your child had to sometimes walk long distances just to go to school. Those dangers could be in the form of weather, animals, or other humans.
Times change, dangers change, but sometimes we should use caution when it comes to sharing on social media.
The first thing you want to do is make sure that not everyone has access to you photos. What social media sites do you use that you post pictures on? Do you have your sites set up where they cross-post? Meaning, if you post something to Facebook, does it automatically post to Twitter? To Instagram? To Tumblr?
One thing I have found is that a lot of people post to Twitter and Facebook at the same time. That is great. Makes it easy to get your picture or post out to all platforms at the same time. The problem is that a lot of times, we may change our privacy settings on Facebook, but not on Instagram or Twitter.
Let us imagine a scenario for a minute……..
You have a daughter in 6th grade. You post pictures of her, commenting on the pic using her name, and include a hashtag that indicates the school she goes to or an event that is taking place at that school. A child molester is scouring twitter searching JUST hashtags of the school or the current events of the school and sees the picture of your daughter. He then goes to your twitter account and scours all your posts and pictures. He learns that you live someone close to the school so he assumes your daughter walks home. He learns about your day-to-day activities. He goes to the school, sees your daughter walking home, calls her by name…..she responds because he KNOWS her name……then proceeds to act like he ran into you at Starbucks earlier (or wherever you tweeted you were) and is able to give her enough information about you for her to believe he actually knows you.
It could happen that quickly!
Parents and those that are close to parents…..be careful of your hashtags! It is so easy to pull up information with them. Check ALL your social media settings, not JUST Facebook, especially if you link the accounts. If you have friends that add anyone that requests (we all have them) then don’t choose “Friends of Friends” choose “Friends Only”. Make a special album for any pictures your children are going to be in and put a stronger setting on them if you want but make sure to choose that album when uploading and not just “Mobile uploads” or whatever default album you have on your phone. Do not use your child’s actual name. You can use an initial. You can be creative and come up with a name that you only use on social media. That way, your child will know that if someone uses that name, they should not only NOT respond but get away as soon as possible.
It is also important to go in and look at the settings your children have on their accounts. If they have a twitter account or an Instagram account, what are their settings on?
Plan ahead, discuss things with your children, and minimize the amount of risk whenever possible!