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Safe messaging

Simple safety tips for instant messaging

As a parent, we’re sure you’ve noticed how typing has replaced talking. And if you’ve got teenage kids, selfies and snapchat streaks are now even replacing typing. But exhausting as it can get to keep up with each new app our kids use these days, the safety rules around using them stay pretty much the same.

  • Protect your personal data: Remind your kids that offline rules apply just as much online. They know not to share their name, gender, age, email address or where they live with a stranger on the street. So why risk doing it when they are online?
  • Keep your selfies safe: We should explain to our kids that a photo once taken and shared lives online forever. Which is why they need to be doubly careful about taking pics next to or with anything or anyone unsafe. Also nudity is definitely out of the question!
  • Be careful with downloads: It may seem like a harmless game, or a funny video, but our kids need to be reminded that any content coming from someone they don’t know shouldn’t be downloaded on either their personal device or any device around the home.
  • Choose your friend requests cautiously: Take the time to explain to your kids that in the online world, anyone can create a social media account. Even potential miscreants who stalk and harm kids. Remind them to double check all their friend requests and if they are unsure, to discuss any new requests with you.
  • Be wary of new contacts who want to meet up: This is especially important for younger kids. As parents, we should regularly talk to our kids about never meeting up in-person (even if it’s in a public place) with someone they only know online.

Rules like these are a great place to start, but they also need to be followed up with some basic vigilance around the house from you as their parent. Some simple things you can do are:

  • Keep an eye on all devices: Remember that many messaging apps work on multiple devices, so even if you are taking away their phone at night, be sure to do the same for their tablet and the laptop / computer around the house.
  • Know your kids device passwords: Remind your kids that you’re not here to snoop on them, but in case of an emergency or serious doubt, you need to have access to keep them safe.
  • Encourage them to chat in the living room: Again, you need to remind your kids you’re doing this to keep them safe, and not to snoop on them.
  • Encourage them to add you as a contact: Chatting with your kids on the platforms they find comfortable is a great way to learn the lingo and understand how their conversations work.
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