Do you know what your kids are up to online? With websites like Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram; your kids can have constant contact with friends... but strangers have access as well.Like most kids her age Sydney Wilson is well versed in the ways of the world-wide web.
"I go on Instagram, Pinterest, sometimes Facebook and YouTube."said Wilsonnn.These social networks allow Sydney to interact and experience the world from the comfort of her living room. On the flip-side, with every picture she posts, anyone with a profile can get a peek into her private life.
"One danger that we see specifically is the advent of more and more networks that are targeting younger and younger audiences. So before where social media was meant for 13 to 15-year-olds and up now we are seeing 8, 9, 10-year-olds involved in some of these networks." said Ten Haken.
"It's easier to say it behind a screen than in person." said Wilson.Many bullied kids won't let their parents know about the online harassment, but there are warning signs.
"Emotional or behavioral changes, maybe acting differently, withdrawn, maybe wanting to avoid school or not go to school, those are things parents should look for." Said Dr. Lezlee Greguson-Lund, a child psychologist at Avera Behavioral Health.
Dr. Greguson-Lund says cyber-bulling is an issue parents need to be aware of but it's not the only bad behavior kids use online. Before parents allow their kids to sign up for a profile, they should know what they are getting in to.
"Parents should set some rules and expectations for their child initially before getting their child involved on social media maybe even sitting down having a family meeting about what those rules and expectations are." said Greguson-Lund.Parents, there are two easy ways to help protect your children online. The first is adjusting the privacy settings on their profile. Take Facebook for example. By clicking the padlock icon at the top of the screen you can limit who can see the pictures and info your kids post, who is allowed to message them, and you can even block certain people completely. The second option? Make your own account and check in from time to time, but also make sure you know how many networks they're on.
"There's Vine to What's App to Twitter to YouTube to Snapchat to Instagram to Facebook, I mean there are so many and so to effectively police all of those as a parent, is nearly impossible." said Ten Haken.Meaning the responsibility also falls on the kids to be smart digital citizens with every post and picture.
"If I feel like it's uncomfortable and I don't want other people see it then I probably shouldn't upload it so I'm pretty comfortable with what I have online." said Wilson.Privacy settings and being online "friends" with her mom isn't keeping Sydney from enjoying social networks. Just like in the real world, her extra safety steps make sure she's not bothered by strangers and her private life stays that way. Not everything on the internet should be viewed as a bad thing. The school systems have done their part to educate on cyber bullying but it's parents who need to encourage better behaviors as well. For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.