If you have a pre-teen or teenager, odds are you wouldn’t let them stay out with their friends or roam the streets too late at night.
But even when your children are safe at home, some of their online activities could be putting them in harm’s way. A recent ZoneAlarm study reveals that kids who report the most problems are active on Facebook during the wee hours of the night. It’s these late night sessions that tend to fly under the radar of parent supervision.
According to the survey of 600 children ages 10-to-15 who use Facebook, kids active after Midnight, which the study calls Facebook’s Wild Children, are especially vulnerable to online security risks. In fact, 60 percent of these Wild Children report having serious problems – twice as many problems as kids who log off earlier. These problems include being approached by strangers, cyberbullying, hacked accounts, problematic friends, embarrassing photos, and/or having to create new account(s) to avoid problems. Findings also indicate that these Wild Children are five times more likely to have very large friend networks of more than 400 friends – 44 percent had online friends whom they have never met in person.
What’s worrying is that while these Wild Children face more problems, 30 percent say that they are not concerned. And 30 percent also report taking no actions to improve their privacy and security on Facebook.
So, is there anything you can do as a parent to protect your kids? By taking an active role in their Facebook time and activities, you can help them stay safe online. Here are some ways you can improve online safety and reduce the risks that Facebook and other social networks might present.
- Discourage late night activity or take extra precautions. Limit your kid’s time on Facebook and deter them from being active on the social network after midnight. Try to encourage them to adhere to an online curfew. If this is difficult to enforce, an alternative or additional solution is to install a computer security product, such as ZoneAlarm Extreme Security, that comes with parental controls on every computer that could potentially be used by your kids. This type of software can help limit use, ensure privacy, and protect your kids from security threats.
- Make your kids aware of the online dangers. Talk to your kids about the potential dangers on Facebook and other social networks. You can discuss what they should do if they are approached by someone they don’t know. And let them know that cyber-bullying is very real. ConnectSafely.org offers some helpful suggestions – reminding kids to avoid responding or retaliating to online bullies, save any cyberbullying messages that they receive and use preference and privacy tools to block online bullying activities.
- Stress the importance of online privacy. Kids should take care to avoid posting too much personal information, including their birthday, home address, or whereabouts, which predators could use to find out their physical location. And while Facebook games and puzzles are fun, your kids should also be careful about using third-party applications on Facebook because these could potentially use or share their personal information. Sit down with your kids and help them adjust their privacy settings on Facebook.
It is a fact that social networks like Facebook and cyber security have become a part of raising children in the 21st century. While Facebook can present some risks and dangers – especially past midnight, it can also provide a number of social benefits. As long as you take precautions and keep a watchful eye, you can ensure everyone in your family gets a good night sleep.
To view a copy of the full report “Is Your Child a Facebook Wild Child”, click here.