Between Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and the new TikTok sensation, children all over the world are avid social media users. It’s a part of everyday life, but for parents, there’s one burning question: How safe is social media?
We called on the experts at ESET to find out. Here, they share the main social media cybersecurity threats, and how to use social media safely.
The risks of using social media
Whether you’re an adult or a child, being a social media user comes with a degree of risk. It can open you up to these cyber threats:
- Identity theft or impersonation. When you sign up to a social media platform, you have the option to provide details like your full name, age, birthday, location, place of work or where you go to school. This is personal identifying information, and enterprising cybercriminals only need a few of these details to carry out identity theft or impersonate you online.
- Catfishing. This is when a stranger pretends to be someone else to befriend you with the goal of tricking you into handing over your sensitive or financial information. In most cases, catfishers pose as potential romantic partners and reel in people that way.
- Cyberbullying. For kids, cyberbullying is prevalent and takes many forms. Bullies can post unflattering pictures or videos, make rude remarks or send persistent messages.
- Phishing scams. Unfortunately, receiving unsolicited messages from people you don’t know is part of using social media. Cybercriminals take advantage of this and often run phishing scams via social media messages and ads. For example, they might send you a DM that appears to be from a legitimate company, with a link. When you click on the link, it downloads malware onto your device.
6 ways to make social media safe for kids
These tips will help to strengthen your kids’ social media cybersecurity while they’re sharing their lives and scrolling through their feeds.
- Set up parental controls
With parental controls in place, you can monitor your kids’ activity online and stop them from accessing inappropriate content. The best programs let you change the settings as your kid grows and matures.
ESET Parental Control allows you to limit screen time, ban certain sites or apps, view your kids’ browsing history, and block unsafe searches, and is compatible with smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops.
- Opt for private profiles
One of our biggest social media safety tips is this: no child needs a public Facebook, Instagram or TikTok account. A private profile is a safer choice, and you can help your little one manage their friend requests. Their connections should only include people they personally know and see in the real world, which means acquaintances and “randoms” are out.
Ask your kids to come to you if they’re approached by someone they haven’t met, so you can vet that person first. Your kids should also know it’s okay to block someone and report suspicious or unsolicited content or messages.
- Remind your kids not to share personal information
Reinforce how important it is to not reveal personal information online. Be sure to mention this includes your full name, address, phone number or where you go to school. It also includes your parents’ names or workplaces, as well as passwords.
Kids like to know why they’re being asked to do something. It’s worth explaining that this information can help strangers to find you or log into your accounts, so they need to be careful.
- Switch on security settings
It’s easy for children to share sensitive information online without even realising it. To make sure they’re only sharing with people you know and trust, choose the strictest security settings for every social media platform they use. While you’re at it, it’s worth doing this for other apps, like Zoom.
- Turn off location tracking
Between check-ins and geo-tagging photos, social media users often allow platforms to track their location. This makes it easier for cybercriminals to find out where your kids are, or where they’re not. Head to the settings menu and opt out of location tracking, and instruct your kids not to tag their location when uploading photos or videos.
- Invest in a good antivirus software
Along with educating your kids about cybersecurity, install sophisticated antivirus software on your kids’ devices, including computers, laptops and phones. That way, if your child accidentally makes you vulnerable to a hacker or replies to a cyberbully, the software will step in to help.
ESET Internet Security and ESET Mobile Security offer a multi-layered defence against a range of cyberattacks, helping to protect your devices and data. They stop your children from accessing harmful or offensive content online and prevent hackers from accessing your system, router or webcam. They also scan attachments and images for viruses. You can install either of these programs on multiple devices under one shared license.
It’s important to stay on top of software updates. Manufacturers release patches regularly to fix flaws and bugs, so as tempting as it is to ignore those notifications, try not to. Software updates usually only take a few minutes to install, and they can go a long way in child safety online.
Boost your social media security awareness
Social media isn’t going anywhere, so it’s up to us as parents to help our children to use it responsibly. To learn more, check out ESET’s Safer Kids Online Initiative. Designed for parents, it’s packed with guides and blog posts to keep your kids safe and secure online.