Tweeting smart and safe: Twitterverse tips for parents of teens and tweens

CINCINNATI - It has more than 230 million monthly users. About 500 million pieces of content come and go each day. It supports over 35 languages. We're talking, of course, about Twitter, one of the largest and most popular social media platforms on the planet.

News organizations and journalists use Twitter to break news and share information almost as soon as it happens. Celebrities and public figures like it for to connect with fans and supporters. It's used by schools to share updates with parents and students and by friends who want to connect with one another. But within this constant connection, parents worry about how safe their children are while connecting with countless strangers and faceless accounts.

If you’re looking for ways to better understand your children’s online movements and relationships online, take a look at these safety tips:

Understand Twitter. Guess what? Kids are leaving Facebook in droves.  While Twitter has been up and running since 2006, many parents are not active on the social platform and thus aren’t able to monitor their children or keep up with trends. Getting know Twitter will help parents feel less disconnected from what their children are talking about in this arena.

What happens on Twitter is public. Twitter is a public space, and while users can protect tweets, it’s not hard to copy a Tweet and send it out, as well as share Twitter handles--or usernames (@WCPO , for example). Make sure your children know that what happens on Twitter will likely stay on the Internet forever, including comments and photos.

Protect yourself. Users should never share their Twitter passwords with friends. Twitter users should also be wary of revealing too much personal information. Common Internet safety practices apply to social platforms like Twitter.

Think before you Tweet! Encourage your children to exercise good judgment before they hit “Tweet.” Would they want future employers to see what they’re sharing online? Would they be embarrassed if a parent or relative inquired about a particular Tweet? If the answer is “yes,” or if they’re hesitant, it’s best to steer clear of posting. Again, it’s important to emphasize that content on the Internet doesn’t go away, and their Tweets could come back to haunt them.

Know who you’re talking to. The purpose of Twitter is to connect users with accounts all across the world, making information and idea sharing an instantaneous reality. The down side is that your children are essentially interacting with strangers, unlike the Facebook world. Urge them to exercise caution when connecting with accounts, and warn them to never share personal or detailed information with strangers online.

Block and Report. Twitter allows you to block and report accounts that are spamming or harassing you, or sharing inappropriate content. Encourage your children to consider these features if they feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

Be open! It’s nearly impossible to monitor every single movement your child makes online; so the best way to keep them safe is to foster an open environment in which they feel comfortable coming to you with issues and complaints. Encourage them to speak up if they feel unsafe or wary online. Discuss ways to avoid potentially dangerous situations and walk through steps they can take to stay safe online. Dialog is a very important way to ensure your children are being smart and safe online, and seeking appropriate channels when they question their safety.


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