Social media gives users a platform and opportunity to connect, no matter where they are or what they have to say. New communities of shared interest can form. Old friends can connect instantly. Yet there are vulnerabilities in the digital age which leave students open to multiple types of threats, including:
- Being tagged in a photo or post
- Having a screenshot of a private message shared publicly
- Following certain groups
Any of those actions carries the potential to expose a student to dangers in ways they may not fully comprehend. Below are a few examples of social media threats to which school-age students are susceptible.
Online predators are most often adults who use social media and gaming sites to find students and establish relationships by starting seemingly innocent conversations online to gain trust. This behavior is known as online grooming and can go on for months as they attempt to build a relationship by talking about sports teams, hobbies, music, etc. These conversations can later deviate towards pornography as well as exploiting a student’s natural curiosity about sexual behavior. It is a good idea to keep tabs on the friends kids make through online games and monitor chats.
Identity theft and scams
It’s tempting to download a free game or complete a survey with the promise of free money or game credits, and students can be the easiest targets. According to an article published by AARP, student age children are 31 to 51 percent more likely to fall victims to identity theft than adults. Information shared online can be used to open fraudulent bank accounts and sign up for credit cards in a child’s name. At home, parents should warn their children to never release personal information such as their social security number and other personal data, even if they think it seems safe and harmless. They should be on the lookout for abnormalities in finances, like tax filing errors, denials of loans, etc. as that could indicate someone else has hacked their child’s identity.