The Internet is still the digital Wild West and kids always manage to be in the thick of it. As more checks and balances become available to concerned parents, even more ways of sidestepping parental supervision are emerging. So, when your kid is immersed in X-box or Mine Craft live, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and who knows how many other social media platforms, as a parent you can start to feel helpless. This is why it’s becoming essential to use people search engines to find out who your kids are really talking to.
We all want to respect our children’s privacy; however, when kids generally can’t be trusted to make rational decisions when it comes to setting boundaries strangers online. Have them give you a list of the friends they play video games with, are following or are being followed by. If you are met with the usual resistance, then snooping may be the way to go. If you are privy to their password then log on and jot down all you can find. Ideally, you should insist that they provide you with their password and routinely check their activity. Be the boss here! Search their online history on your cell phone account (assuming they are on it) or contact the phone company to see if you can obtain URLs they may be routinely accessing. Searching their history folder can also help you to see where they have been and sometimes even who they’ve contacted.
If you are fortunate enough to get some names off of your child’s game or social media contacts, you can easily plug them into a variety of people search engines. Free searches from reputable engines may be sufficient for a parent’s purposes; however, more advanced searches like yasni.com can be worthwhile for parents who are serious about staying informed about their kids’ activities.
Note: Sometimes searching your own child’s name or username can open a treasure trove of wanted or, in some cases, unwanted info.
The best defense is a great offense and keeping on top of your children’s online activity is essential.
The Federal Trade Commission offers a good ‘tips’ page for online kid safety called, ‘Do You Know Who Your Kids are Talking To?’ Some suggestions include:
- Make sure their username does not reveal personal info.
- Do not share personal info including school name, photos, team affiliation, address, etc.
- Keep computer privileges in an open area rather than a closed-door bedroom so you can keep an eye on their activity.
- Engage the ‘private’ option on any available sites they visit or communicate on.
Keeping your kids safe online is a serious safety issue. Like any privilege, communicating online comes with important responsibilities. Make sure your children understand this concept and continue to remind them how important it is. Get involved! Show interest in what they’re attracted to and you will be pleasantly surprised at how much you may connect with your child, in addition to being able to keep an eye on what they are doing.
Stay safe, stay smart, stay vigilant.
Sara Collins is a writer for NerdWallet, a site that helps users stay informed about personal finance decisions, like comparing whole life vs term life insurance.