RVA Parenting: Social media safety, a warning for parents

RVA Parenting: Social media safety, a warning for parents

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Dangerous apps exist that can expose your child to predators. It's part of the connected world we live in.

Despite investigative efforts by police, the reality is that strangers are lurking on the internet with bad intentions.

The tough part about technology is it changes so quickly. Just when you've mastered Facebook or Twitter and taught your kids about privacy settings, there's Snapchat and Kik. Also, there are apps that look like calculators, or other deceiving icons, intended to keep watchful parents from snooping

In a Virginia case, the use of a social app likely connected a teen with her killers and cost the 13-year-old her life.

So, what can parents do to "keep up" with technology and protect a child? We asked a social media expert, Marcy Williams, who runs a company that deals specifically with social media safety for kids. It's called Kollege and Kareer 4 Youth.

Williams recommends buying devices with safety features, and knowing how to use them. "What are the safety features that come with those particular devices ensuring that they're enabled and making sure that when you're away from home, they're working as well. Sometimes, they will disable themselves."

Williams also said to manage the downloading capabilities for your users, which may limit your child's ability to download just any app or tech tool.

She also said to use Facebook groups to share your findings with other parents and ask questions about what they've seen. "The Facebook groups, the other Instagram... They have parenting groups that are specific to pieces of technology," explained Williams. "You have the Apple groups where they
talk about changes in technology, so being a part of those groups is a great way to engage. Asking questions in those groups."

She also encourages parents to be confident about asking the company involved, itself. If you have a question for Snapchat, contact Snapchat.

Follow law enforcement warnings. Investigators will know where new problems are for teens online.

Watch for warning signs. Is your child acting secretive with his or her device? "Quickly turning off a device when a parent enters the room, hiding the phone, having a password. What is it that you have to hide? So, you want to pay attention to those signs and you want to have a level of control."

Finally, she said it's important to communicate. The reality is that you won't always be one step ahead, so you have to give your child the tools to make safe and responsible choices. "I think a lot of times, young people don't understand consequences, and so instead of saying don't do this, give them the reasons why because as young people, if you say don't do it, don't touch the hot fire, you're going to touch to see if it's really hot. If you explain the consequences, they're less likely to touch the fire," said Williams.

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