Threats Can Come From Anywhere, Anytime
Written by Social Sentinel
Social media gives users a platform and opportunity to connect, no matter where they are or what they have to say. New communities of shared interest can form. Old friends can connect instantly. Yet there are vulnerabilities in the digital age which leave students open to multiple types of threats, including:
- Being tagged in a photo or post
- Having a screenshot of a private message shared publicly
- Following certain groups
Any of those actions carries the potential to expose a student to dangers in ways they may not fully comprehend. Below are a few examples of social media threats to which school-age students are susceptible.
Comments can come from a known user or a stranger thousands of miles away, but either can leave a person feeling humiliated, embarrassed, exposed, and violated.
Online predators are most often adults who use social media and gaming sites to find students and establish relationships by starting seemingly innocent conversations online to gain trust. This behavior is known as online grooming and can go on for months as they attempt to build a relationship by talking about sports teams, hobbies, music, etc. These conversations can later deviate towards pornography as well as exploiting a student’s natural curiosity about sexual behavior. It is a good idea to keep tabs on the friends kids make through online games and monitor chats.
Identity theft and scams
It’s tempting to download a free game or complete a survey with the promise of free money or game credits, and students can be the easiest targets. According to an article published by AARP, student age children are 31 to 51 percent more likely to fall victims to identity theft than adults. Information shared online can be used to open fraudulent bank accounts and sign up for credit cards in a child’s name. At home, parents should warn their children to never release personal information such as their social security number and other personal data, even if they think it seems safe and harmless. They should be on the lookout for abnormalities in finances, like tax filing errors, denials of loans, etc. as that could indicate someone else has hacked their child’s identity.
Hurtful comments on social media can send both adults and kids spiraling into a depressed state. Comments can come from a known user or a stranger thousands of miles away, but either can leave a person feeling humiliated, embarrassed, exposed, and violated. Parents and educators have a duty to watch for behavioral changes in a student which may indicate they may be a victim of online bullying. Take special note of changes in eating habits, a feeling of helplessness and/or decreased self-esteem, withdrawal from friends and social activities, a sudden obsession with electronics or aversion to them or unusually sad, moody, teary, anxious or a depressed demeanor.
Exposure to inappropriate and harmful content
Despite the many parental controls available, there are still ways that lewd and inappropriate images can be seen through social media outlets. Be aware that some apps [such as Snapchat] have no way to monitor threats or inappropriate content, which is one of the reasons it’s favored by teens. Certain apps, websites, texts, screenshots, and posts can navigate their way onto a student’s device and they can be exposed to sexual images, vulgar language and scenes intended to glorify the use of drugs and alcohol. Open conversations and regular monitoring of a child’s internet usage are paramount to getting them to understand the inappropriate nature and dangers of these posts.
Posts Last a Lifetime
Once something is posted on the internet, it’s there forever. Many school-aged children in today’s generation may not yet understand that what they say or do can come back to haunt them at any time in the future. A simple search by school administrators and future employers can turn up these images and they may result in unintended consequences. Parents need to educate kids that their social media posts, no matter how private the account, could ultimately be seen by anyone and their opportunities may be cut short.
Threats can originate from anyone, anywhere, anytime. While the majority of social media is a positive digital space for connectivity. But with a single like or tag, students could open themselves up to ill intent from other users next door or across the world.