Many Internet safety experts agree that social media poses serious risks for kids. From loose privacy policies to cyber bullying, kids can run into a lot of problems, some that they unknowingly create for themselves.

The vast majority of teens (up to 80% according to the Pew research Institute) are active on social media sites. The Pew Research Institute also found that 69% of parents are concerned about how their kid's Internet use could affect their future in regards to college and their career. In reality 100% of parents should be concerned about social media use.

Accounts Are Easy to Hack & Are Not Always Private

Internet security specialist Terry Cutler explained that in addition to using weak passwords too often on Facebook, "people don't have their two-step verification set up either." This makes it far too easy to hack into a person's account and even gain access to things like their phone.

Cybercriminals will scour a person's account for personal information and use that to answer security questions and crack open accounts. Once they hack into an account they'll send out messages to the person's contacts to try and bait other people into clicking links and unknowingly giving away information.

Social sites also share information with third parties, which could pose a threat since cybercriminals hack into them often. Some third party applications also ask for permission to access a user's contact list and email address book. However, only 9% of teens say they are concerned with that.

Putting Out Information for All to See

Hacking isn't even required 38% of the time because that's how many kids leave some or all of their information public. Another concern is kids not being careful about the comments they post on other people's accounts. If a person's account is public so are the comments that everyone makes.

"You can find literally anything about anyone on the Internet, and it does not go away," said V Phan a LMSW-IPR and mother of three. "Kids today do not realize how the things they send out onto the Internet can be harmful for them. Information or pictures that can never be removed could harm them later on in life in their careers."

A 2012 Pew Research Center study found that teens are sharing more personal information now than they did in the past. Here is a quick look at some of the stats:

  • 91% of teens post photos of themselves, a 12% increase since 2006.
  • 71% of teens post their school name, a 22% increase since 2006.
  • 71% of teens post the city or town where they live, a 10% increase since 2006.
  • 53% of teens post their email address, a 24% increase since 2006.
  • 20% of teens post their cell phone number, an 18% increase since 2006.

The vast majority of teens also post their age, interests and 92% post their real name on their social media accounts. Approximately 16% have account settings that automatically include their location anytime they make a post.

Predators Trolling for Information

Predators know that there are a lot of kids using social media, and they are taking advantage of the fact that kids often let their guards down in these online environments. Research has found:

  • 82% of predators use social media sites to figure out what a kid likes and dislikes before initiating contact.
  • 65% of online sex offenders use social media to gather information about a victim's home and school.

Even photo sharing websites like Pinterest can give away a lot about a person. Online stalkers and predators are understandably the biggest concern for most parents, but unfortunately many kids don't fully comprehend the threat of giving away too much information.

Cyber Bullying

Social media sites and apps are the primary spots where cyber bullies do their dirty work. Unfortunately many kids don't speak up about the bullying, and they don't report it. Each social media group will have content and/or conduct policies that users have to follow. These are in place to prevent inappropriate content and cyber bullying, and the sites take them seriously. For example, Google encourages users to report inappropriate or abusive behavior on Google+.

Social Media Internet Safety Rules for Kids

  • Set up passwords that are difficult to figure out.
  • Set up two-step verification.
  • Use a non-descript username.
  • Always keep accounts completely private.
  • Be careful where you comment.
  • Don't engage with bullies. Report them, gather evidence and then block them.
  • Never post pictures you wouldn't want your family to see.
  • Deny contacts from people you don't know.
  • Never meet with someone that you met through social media unless getting permission first.
  • Be careful clicking links because it could be cybercriminals trying to infect your computer.

Social Media Internet Safety Rules for Parents

  • Discuss social media safety as a family. Use real world news stories to illustrate that social media can be unsafe.
  • Learn as much as possible about social media platforms, including the social media sites that are new. Teens are among the first to adopt new social platforms so you need to be aware of what's on the horizon.
  • Create your own social media accounts and download the apps to become familiar with how they work.
  • Check the age restrictions and use that are a guideline for which accounts your kid can open.
  • Make adding at least one parent as a contact a requirement for opening a social media account.
  • Establish clear guidelines for using social media.
  • Let your kids know that they can always come to you if they experience something negative online.

As always, you'll need to monitor your kid's activity to keep up with who they are interacting with, what they are posting and how well they are protecting their privacy.




Teaching kids Internet safety is as important as teaching them to look both ways before crossing the street. Don't wait until their safety, your financial security or a family member's identity is compromised. Take action against cyber criminals that use the Internet to gain access into our lives and the lives of our children.