Social media is everywhere. It’s become an integral part of the way we communicate, as well as how businesses market and provide customer service. And it is starting earlier than ever. By the age of 10, 59% of children have already used a social network. Wow.
This trend is not going away anytime soon. As much you might like to keep your kids off of social networks, it is not completely unavoidable. Aside from the loss of human interaction and the negative side effects of increased screen time, what are the risks of your children being active on social media?
Yes, they could make an insensitive comment or post a slightly inappropriate picture - but the risks can be much further reaching. Their actions on social media can negatively impact themselves, your family, and others. It is important for parents to become aware of the risks, educate their children on safe social media use, and take action to regularly monitor kids’ internet activity.
A New Way Of Expressing Emotions
Social media now acts as an outlet for emotions. Even just a decade ago, jealously, passion, betrayal, and anger were expressed quite differently. What children and teens don’t realize is their words written on social networks will be around for a lot longer than just the heat of the moment. They may be some of the most active users of these technologies, but kids are also naïve and don’t yet understand the full repercussions of what they share online.
Understanding The Risks And Options For Protection
There is a lot more at stake than your child’s popularity and reputation when they are posting online. What they say, post, and share can put you and your family at risk.
- A photo shared from a high school party can do more than embarrass a teen’s classmates - as a result of photos showing incriminating behavior, students have even been suspended and lost scholarships.
- A derogatory comment about a classmate doesn’t just stay between a kid and their friends – it can escalate quickly. There are numerous instances where such remarks have been part of cyberbullying and contributed to depression in children and teens.
- Sharing your every move and announcing vacations can be dangerous. Kidnappers have gathered information about a victim from social networks. Burglars have chosen targets after seeing they will be out of town for a trip.
- In Georgia, a 7th grader created a fake Facebook profile allegedly defaming a classmate. The Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that his parents may be held negligent for failing to have their son delete the account.
These days you can be sued for most anything. You might be concerned about proper insurance coverage because an individual could sue you for slipping on your driveway or getting bitten by your dog. Likewise, you can be held liable for your kids’ actions online.
A standard homeowners policy likely will not cover a claim related to this kind of personal injury - usually described as libel, slander, violation of privacy, etc. By adding a personal injury endorsement or similar broadening endorsement to a homeowners policy it increases the chances that this type of claim would be covered. It is important to read the actual policy and the personal injury endorsement’s exclusions because some activities, and the intent of those activities, could still be excluded. It would also be advisable to add a personal umbrella policy to your risk management program. This type of policy provides additional liability protection and is usually offered in increments of $1,000,000. Again, it is important to read the policy to understand what exclusions apply to social media.
Tips For Protecting Your Family On Social Media
Even though these risks are intimidating, you most likely cannot keep your children completely off of social networks. So what can you do to help protect your family? The following are tips to consider:
- Establish the rules upfront with your children. This could be the in the form of a family social media policy or a contract outlining the expectations and guidelines for social media use.
- Discuss with your kids about how what they are doing on social media can have repercussions - the permanent nature of their posts and comments, how their actions can impact the family, cyberbullying.
- Check their privacy settings on a regular basis, including the strength of their passwords.
- Ensure that your child is not posting or including any personal information that would make them an easy target- phone numbers, high school information, hometown, etc.
- Consider limiting their phone use at night by docking the phone in a central area.
- Teach your kid the importance of their online brand or reputation. It will be seen by colleges, coaches, and employers.
- If you notice any changes with your child, if they seem upset after social media/internet use, have a discussion with them to ensure there is no cyberbullying occurring.
Social media is practically unavoidable in this day and age. But there are ways to make it as safe as possible for your child and your family. Making sure you have sufficient liability coverage and discussing the risks of being involved in social media with your children can make a difference.