Guest Post by Lynette Owens featured on KiwiCommons

With the arrival of another school year, many students my also return to a renewed and heavier use of their social networks to keep up with everything from school activities to the social scene.  So it’s important to teach and remind young people about the safe and responsible use of social media.

Social networks mirror social landscapes in real life, where there are both good and bad actors.

While a lot of the focus has been on peer-related issues such as bullying, sexting, and privacy there is one overlooked area that should be included when we talk to kids about using social networks safely and responsibly: cybercrime.

In many cases, cybercriminals are not necessarily targeting kids, but they always gather wherever people do.  And their crimes are designed to fool people into doing something they didn’t realize was harmful.  In other cases, they may in fact be targeting youth when child identity theft is their motive.  Criminals can use a child’s personal information to open lines of credit, for example, and not be discovered for a long time because parents do not typically check their kids’ credit histories as there wouldn’t usually be a reason to do so.

Cybercriminals’ tricks are sometimes as benign as making you click on something because they get paid by advertisers for every click (click fraud).  They can also fool you into clicking on links in wall posts that lead you to a fake site designed to install spyware on your system, get you to download what you thought was free music but is actually a bot, or convince you to enter personal information like a userid and password on a hacked site.

Some tips you can give to kids who use social networking sites include:

  1. Only connect with those you know or those you are certain can be trusted.
  2. Use the strongest privacy settings that still allow you the flexibility you need to use the site in the way you want.
  3.  Share only information that is absolutely necessary, especially when you may not know who your network of friends might be sharing it with.
  4. Be wary of posts that are either offering something too good to be true. Trust your instinct if something seems suspicious.  And if you KNOW it’s a fraud, report it to the social networking site.
  5. Always have up-to-date, reputable security software installed on every device you are using to connect to the Internet/social networking sites. Cybercriminals will, for the most part, be unable to harm you because good security software or service will know that the links/sites they are leading you to are malicious and won’t let you visit them.

As parents and educators, we should remember that kids need to be as savvy about avoiding cybercrime as they do about treating others respectfully online and maintaining their online privacy and reputations.  Also, their futures most certainly will include using the Internet regularly.  They won’t be kids forever, so our goal should be to help kids make good decisions online on their own as early as we can.

Follow Lynette on Twitter @LynetteTOwens

For more tips and resources on safe social networking go to:

Or watch “The Wrong Hands” (2 minute engaging video for youth on online safety)

Lynette Owens
Lynette Owens

Lynette Owens is the Founder and Global Director of Trend Micro’s Internet Safety for Kids and Families program. With 20+ years in the tech industry, Lynette speaks and blogs regularly on how to help kids become great digital citizens. She works with communities and 1:1 school districts across the U.S. and around the world to support online safety, digital and media literacy and digital citizenship education. She is a board member of the National Association for Media Literacy Education, an advisory committee member of the Digital Wellness Lab, and serves on the advisory boards of INHOPE and U.S. Safer Internet Day.

Follow her on Twitter @lynettetowens