14 Nov, 2019 Social Media Dangerous for Youth: Avoid Being a Target
by Trudi Griffin
Millions of kids are online. Read this so your kids are not a target for pedophiles and personal info isn’t shared with the masses.
As noted in the Beloit College Mindset List, the teens who entered college in 2019 grew up with social media as a prominent method of peer interaction. To put things in perspective, the 2019 college freshmen were born the year I graduated from college.
Not everyone uses social media for altruistic purposes. Parents and grandparents and the youth who use it so casually, need to be aware of the dangers. A recent “Inform Us” submission on the CCM app reignited the need to warn everyone about apps that can be dangerous for kids such as TikTok, Snapchat, and Facebook. Instagram, owned by Facebook, is another app that parents need to be wary of since Instagram’s recent policies that allow anyone to create a “business” account. While there is an age “suggestion” affiliated with those accounts, there is no system to check. Teens are using a business account to share personal data, which is then available to anyone with an internet connection.
Social media is not harmless
Chase Griffin, a cybersecurity expert, stresses the importance of awareness and the fact that parents need to be involved in how their kids use social media. “Anytime bits and pieces of your digital identity are shared on the internet; it is available to a whole category of people you don’t want your teens to be affiliated with.” Plus, once something is available online, it is always available.
Digital identity items that most people don’t even blink at sharing might include birthdays, ages, school, likes, dislikes, photos with identifiable locations you frequent, people you spend time with, and real names, emails, and addresses. Griffin says it is easy to gather the information necessary for exploitation just by looking at someone’s social media activity.
Who can use that digital information?
- Sexual predators get access to your teen and can learn enough about them to pose as a teen they want to get to know.
- International cybercriminals use personally identifiable information to steal identities and run scams.
- Identity thieves can collect digital identity information and create accounts pretending to be your teen, which includes signing them up for things, impersonating them, or engaging in financial crimes.
- Cyberbullies can use information posted on social media to bully, harass, and discredit your teen and your family. There are plenty of news stories about the devastating effects of cyberbullying.
- Social media companies collect and sell your data without your consent, nor do you know what information they sell. Some speculate that this information influences everything from health insurance rates to credit scores.
Griffin advises that if people treated their digital identity like their social security number, there would be fewer crimes and problems resulting from social media. People cry out for the social media companies to do something about all this, but it’s not their responsibility to keep your kids safe, it is up to us as parents and caregivers.
- Educate yourself and your kids about the dangers of putting personal things online. In his book, “Sheep No More” former Navy SEAL and FBI Special Agent Jonathan R. Gilliam explains how attackers of any kind, including online, look for vulnerabilities, including ignorance and complacency. Do not be an easy target!
- Make it a rule that you have access to your child’s social media accounts no matter what age they are. Maintain a list of accounts, services, gaming networks, and social media they use, so if something comes up in the news or through our Counter Culture Mom app, you can terminate the service.
- Keep youth off social media and facilitate engagement in real-life peer relationships and groups.
Here are some recent examples of personal information getting into the wrong hands.
Here is the full NBC News story about teen use of Instagram business accounts to share personal information results in unwanted attention.
This Forbes article gives more information about how social media companies make money off your participation.
It’s fun to connect with others online, but make sure you follow the advice above, so these social media dangers won’t be something you’ll have to deal with. If you’re interested in seeing why celebrities refrain from letting their kids use social media, check this story out about Kate Winslet.
Trudi Griffin is…
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