By Guest Blogger Suzy Fielders

Not too long ago I wrote this blog “What Parents Should Know About Facebook,”  talking a little about kids being on Facebook and some tips to help get them set up with proper security restrictions. Facebook is just ‘the tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to online issues for parents.

Parents are so caught up in the age old not wanting to infringe on their kids privacy that they don’t realize this is a security issue and that old rule doesn’t apply to this era or generation. The sad fact is there are too many online predators out there to allow kids online without numerous restrictions and rules.

Set ground rules before they get social media profiles or even browsing the internet and make those clear and known. One rule should be that you as the parent will know their passwords and will randomly check the account. This is where many parents start wondering if this is an invasion of their kid’s privacy.

If you set the expectations ahead of time, then you are clearly letting them know it is something that will be checked and it’s not like you are sneaking behind their back. Make it clear you not checking this as a way to invade their personal lives but as a way to keep them safe. If they need convincing just show them all the news on the two 12 year old girls who stabbed their peer recently in Wisconsin. Then suggest they start a journal – yes actual pen and paper – to keep their private thoughts in a safe place!

When your child uses Facebook, go to their profile then hover over where it shows ‘friends’ button at the bottom of the cover photo. A menu will pop up and select ‘get notifications’. Then every time they post you will get a notification at the top your own FB page. This is a great way to keep your eye on things.

In addition to Facebook, most parents are aware there are a multitude of other social media platforms out there, from Instagram to Pinterest and Twitter. Many of these are very public, although some can change security settings. So if your child is on any of these they should not post anything (pictures or text) that gives away personal information; such as, school name, address, or those specific type things. When your kid(s) set up any social media profile make sure to actually be there with them when they do. Go through each security setting and set it as private as possible.

Personal security is not the only online issue; there are also an abundance of spammers and hackers. Always make sure to let them know of these dangers. For instance, never open a link or attachment in an email from someone you don’t know as there’s always a high risk of getting viruses that way. Also make sure to have a virus checker on all computers in the house (including the child’s). Any computer on the same internet system (i.e. Time Warner house) is open to getting a virus if another computer on that system has one. Back to the topic of passwords they need to have both numbers and letters and not be something so obvious to be the most secure.

I can’t emphasize enough the fact that it’s so important kids know that once something is posted it’s out there. This seems like a simple and obvious thing but I’ve noticed so many people seem to overlook it. Online outlets shouldn’t be used for venting, that’s what friends and family are for (in person or on the phone)! You never know who is reading and watching.

The internet is such a powerful tool, both good and bad. It’s a parent’s job to help their kids understand and respect this!