Using social media wisely

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Social media are very much a part of our culture, and many young people and adults regularly use the sites to connect with their friends and family. When used appropriately, social media can be very positive. When misused, there can be serious consequences for a family. Instances of cyberbullying and sexting have increased with the popularity of social media. In some cases, thieves have used social media accounts to find their next victims.

Some social media sites have member guidelines, such as Twitter and Facebook that require account holders to be at least 13 years old. However, some young people falsify their ages to gain entry into a site.

Here are some tips to help you and your children safely navigate social media sites.

Make sure you and your child use your real names and ages when activating social media accounts.

Personal information such as social security numbers, home addresses, phone numbers and when you’re on vacation or not home, should not be posted on social media sites as it could make your family a prime target for thieves.

Make sure your child personally knows each person listed as their friends or followers. Your friends and followers should also be limited to people you know.

Utilize social media privacy settings, but realize that not everything you say on social media is private.

Check your child’s and your friends’ accounts to make sure no one has posted any private or inappropriate information about you or your family. Ask your friends to remove any information involving you or your family that you feel is inappropriate or private. Remove tags from any inappropriate photos your friends may post of you and your family.

Remind your child that what they say and do online can have real-life consequences.

Encourage your kids to talk to you if someone’s online behavior makes them feel uneasy or threatened.

Source: Mark Mains, 4-H youth development specialist NetSmartz Workshop

Ralph Hance is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for 4-H and youth development.