So you think you’re friends with your kids on Facebook?

PHOTO: Shutterstock

Children are increasingly taking more and more risks online.  This includes creating fake social media profiles to avoid scrutiny from parents.

Did you ever lie to your parents when you were young?  If you are like the majority of Australians, that’s probably a yes! Some of us would lie about who we were with, where we were going and what we got up to.

Adolescents are well known risk takers – kids can feel invincible and take risks against our better judgment.  Now that the internet is part of everyday life and many children have been able to expertly operate a device before they could speak, a whole new set of opportunities have opened up for them that were not available to previous generations.  No longer is the family phone in the kitchen for everyone to hear every word, or your secret stash of letters hidden under the bed for mum to find.  Parents are having to learn how to look after their children’s wellbeing without the tools of past experience to draw upon.

One of the techniques that parents use to keep their children safe is to ‘friend’  them on their social media accounts.   This allows them to monitor their behaviour without being overtly intrusive (or embarrassing ) and guide them away from harm before it’s too late.  A lot of parents have had success in this way.  It can also open up lines of communication between parents and children around bullying and respectful online behaviour.

However, parents should be aware that many teens create “alternate” or secret social media accounts that are unknown to their parents. These fake accounts allow teens to express themselves freely, without the prying eyes of family.

PHOTO: Shutterstock

Here’s 2 quick ways to check:

The first is to search suggested followers, friends or users on your social media account based on your contact list (In Instagram for example, you can go to “Discover People” on the home page, then check the list of suggested Instagram users based on your contact list).   If your child has created a fake account using either their mobile number or their email address (and you have them in your contacts) it will show up.  If you don’t recognise a username you can click on it to see who it is. You will also see suggestions based on mutual followers/friends which you can navigate through for more insight.

If however, your child has created a fake account with a fake email address (by creating another one in gmail or hotmail etc) or a friend’s phone number, it won’t show up as a suggested account from your contact list.  You will be able to find that account by going into their device directly and checking their social media account apps. If your child operates several accounts (in Instagram for example), a drop down list will be available on the homepage where you click on the user name.

As always, staying vigilant is imperative as your kids navigate their online world, knowing that many children try to find ways around the limitations imposed by adults.  Constant communication with them around the dangers of sharing too much information, the permanence and public nature of the internet, and what to do when they are faced with cyberbullying, is another way to help them make good decisions even when you’re not watching.

Compiled by Perimeter Guardian a technology-based company that provides protection to school communities across Australia. It partners with schools to provide protection particularly in the areas of new technologies and cyber safety.

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