Five tips to keeps kids safe on social media
Today, 8 February is Safer Internet Day. Like every year, children and their parents are made aware of the dangers of the Internet on this day. According to police commissioner Olivier Bogaert of the Federal Computer Crime Unit, we urgently need to teach young people how to protect themselves on social media such as TikTok, where they spend huge amounts of time.
This social network for sharing videos has become the favourite app of teenagers. Use of the app has been on the rise and last September it even reached the one billion mark. It is also the most downloaded app worldwide (not counting games). "Now that face-to-face interaction is less, young people mostly stay in touch with their friends digitally,” explains Olivier Bogaert. "They want to become influencers and therefore want as many followers as possible. But that's not without risk."
Five tips for parents
In view of the importance of social media in teenagers' daily lives, Olivier Bogaert makes the following recommendations to parents.
- Make the profile more private. It's in your child's interest to restrict the visibility of their photos, videos or other interactions. "They won't choose to do this themselves because they want maximum visibility," explains Olivier Bogaert. "But we forget that the more public the video is, the more it can be downloaded and thus used by other people, and there's nothing we can do about this." That's why it's important to check the privacy settings and restrict the visibility of posts to friends, not friends of friends: "that way you keep abuse under control and, in the event of a data leak or unwanted behaviour, you have a better chance of finding out who is responsible."
- On TikTok: Depending on the child's age, some options are disabled by default. Go to Profile > and in the top right, tap the 3-line icon > Privacy. You can set the account as a Private account or disable everything under Suggest your account to others and under Sync contacts. If you go down further you can disable Downloads, Reactions, Mentions and Direct messages.
- On Facebook: Go to Settings > Profile and tagging. Change every option here, preferably to “Friends” or “Only me”. Also disable the possibility to be found through search engines.
- Limit targeted advertising. As advertisers have access to your child's "ad ID" (just as they have access to any other Internet user's ad ID), they can show your child ads tailored to their interests. Now imagine that a criminal has access to the same information and, as part of a phishing attempt, lures your child with a personalised ad, such as a fake competition for a coveted smartphone, or a fake quiz on their favourite series. "Any information that comes to light through your browsing behaviour can be used against you," Olivier Bogaert summarises. That's why it's better to disable targeted advertising.
- On TikTok: Go to Profile > in the top right, tap the 3-line icon > Privacy > Personalisation of Ads and disable the only option here.
- On Facebook: Go to Settings > Ads > Ad settings and in every submenu disable as many options as possible.
- Say no to "challenges". This concerns challenges on social media that encourage young people to follow and film crazy or dangerous behaviour. Teach your child to distinguish between what is right and wrong and that the video, even in a safe environment, can be used by others to belittle, ridicule or blackmail him.
- Watch out with second-hand platforms. On Facebook and many other sites, second-hand products can be bought and sold. Your teenager should be aware of the risks involved in a remote transaction, which police commissioner Bogaert generally advises against. "It is better to hand over the goods in person, but to meet in a public place, accompanied by another person. Be sure to avoid strange things like exchanging codes for a prepaid card. And, of course, never give out your bank details."
- Enable parental controls. Olivier Bogaert strongly advises parents to enable this in Android and iOS (we explain here how exactly to do this) so that you receive a notification in case of dangerous behaviour: "you don't need to spy on your child, but you do need to be able to enter into a dialogue and assess the risks at all times, which implies being aware of what your child is doing online generally speaking.”
Stay up to date
To stay up to date with the latest potential threats, download the Safeonweb app, which regularly warns you about malware and other current dangers.
This will help you to talk to your children with expertise. "Dinner is a good time to give some tips", advises Olivier Bogaert. "Take the opportunity to tell them what you heard through the Safeonweb app. It's also about acting preventively, just like you say to look left and right before crossing the road, or to wear a seatbelt in the car."