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Experts share tools to keep your children safe online as social media usage increases

Posted at 8:46 AM, Jul 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-08 09:46:15-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A recent study shows kids are spending more time online than ever before.

Research by Common Sense Media reports a 17% increase in social media usage among kids, even as young as 8, in just the last few years.

Experts say not all screen time is bad, but there can be lots of trouble lurking online. It's our job as parents to ensure our kids know the potential dangers of this portal to the world.

Chief Parenting Officer at Bark Technologies, Titania Jordan, shared what tools parents can use to promote safety on the internet. Bark Technologies is a parental control phone monitoring app designed to keep kids safe online. Jordan said the first step is to not panic, but to be aware of new trends like virtual sleepovers — where kids go to sleep with friends over the phone overnight via video chat, often with the opposite sex.

Experts advocate having a talk with your child about the risks.

"Say, here are the things that I think could happen and how are we going to navigate these as a family? What are we going to do if those happen and how will we address those?" Jordan said.

The second step, Jordan says, is to have a really candid conversation with your child and make sure it's ongoing.

"You need to talk to your children about online predation, sexual content and pornography, sending and receiving nudes, cyberbullying… at a much earlier age than you might think,” she said.

Jordan added that there’s a high probability they’ve encountered these issues and children may not tell you because they might not even understand it, or they're afraid of how you're going to react. She encourages parents to look for signs of cyberbullying, either done by your child, or to your child, like being really withdrawn, eating more or less, or if something seems off. It's OK to ask.

If you have teens, talk about the responsibility of popular payment apps meant to send and receive money. Also, Jordan encourages parents to know who kids are gaming with. It's not regular Nintendo anymore and Jordan says chat rooms and virtual gaming options are unfortunately opportunities for online predators to lurk and potentially try to lure kids

Lastly, she advocates for parents to educate themselves on the new and popular apps. Install monitoring apps to keep track of where your kids are searching, but don’t abuse that authority. Learn how your kids communicate and who they communicate with. For pre-teens, Jordan acknowledges the balance between privacy and oversight can be tough, so don't feel rushed giving your child a device if they're not ready. You know your child best.