Being Social Media Savvy Keeps Your Kids Safe Online

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GRIMES, Iowa –Social media surrounds us these days, and it isn't just adults that are online. It can be hard for parents to keep up with trends.

Like most homes, phones are a common sight at the Campbell house.

"I just love my phone,"  Sophia Hilsabeck said. "I have just a bunch of different games and apps."

It's something new for the 9-year-old.

In addition to educational apps, she and her 11-year-old sister also use social media on their smartphones.

"I'm on Instagram, and then my parents don't let me be on anything else," said Kamryn Hilsabeck.

"We just started to introduce this about a year ago, actually trusting them with their phone. That was kind of a big jump," said the girls' mother, Stephanie Campbell.

But they can't use their phones without some rules. Campbell said their accounts are set to private. They must allow her to follow them, and they regularly talk about what they're doing online. "At the same time, it's scary as a parent to just have to turn that phone over and hope they're making good choices and practice what we preach," she said.

It's hard for parents to stay on top of all the social media apps kids can use, but experts say it's important for you to know what's out there.

"These days technology changes so fast, and we find kids are more savvy when it comes to the social networks and apps and technologies than their parents are,” said Drew Harden, President and Co-Founder of Blue Compass.

The digital marketing company has experts tracking social media trends each day. Harden says it's important for parents to talk to their kids about what's appropriate online, and take a little time each week to educate yourself.

"Snapchat is one of the biggest ones. Instagram is incredibly popular as well. There's 'What's Up,' which is a texting app,” he said. "There's apps like 'Burn Note' and 'Yik Yak' and 'Whisperer' that are all becoming more popular as well. And, some of these are self-destructing apps. In other words, once you post some information, it goes away after someone sees, and so that makes it popular with younger kids, especially teenagers," continued Harden.

The self-destructing apps can be a problem because it isn't easy for parents to track what kids are posting. And, it gives kids a false impression the post is only temporary.

"Any message you send to someone, any photo you text to someone, it can always be accessed, even if it's deleted. And, so that can really affect kids when it comes to trying to get into a school or ultimately getting a job. It will be interesting to see when kids today run for President in a number of years, what happens."

For Campbell, it’s just another part of parenting.

"You can't protect your children forever. If you shelter them from the digital world, they might not know how to handle themselves. Just like if you shelter them from the real world, they get out there and they might make some poor choices," she said.

Blue Compass hosts social media sessions for parents over the lunch hour. The next session is June 9. You can sign up on the company’s website.  

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