By Aline Frederico*
Translated by Julio Carvalho de Soares
Living outside of Brazil has never been easier. With Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook, and many other forms of socialmedia, talking to family and friends has become incredibly easier. This communication, however, many times is not restricted to them, and great part of this information is available on the web. Part of it for the owners of the websites we access, and another for the search engines. This is called a digital footprint.
Having a digital footprint isn’t necessarily bad, it actually makes the search for information pertinent to us easier, for example changing the system when we are in a different country. But this also gives more details about our personal life to third parties and many companies make money off of this kind of information.
Another important factor is that this information is used more often than ever by companies when recruiting and even for universities when selecting candidates. Therefore, a certain digital footprint can have a large impact on our futures and on our kids’. Many times, we are not aware of the dimensions of such impact when we post something on the Internet.
If this happens even with adults, then what about the children?
It is known that children and adolescents, especially before 13, have the great difficulty to understand the impact an action in the future. So what do you do when your child wants to have a social media account?
The majority of social media sites do not accept people under 13 years of age, so it is easy to make an account with fake information. Only you can determine if your child is ready for social media. The important thing is that you talk to him/her about it in case you think he/she isn’t ready.
It is important that your child understands these reasons, otherwise it is very possible that they start their virtual life without you knowing, creating a hidden account. This increases the danger, since the child can access content and post information without being aware of the best ways to protect themselves on social media, without knowing the rules of online etiquette, or without having awareness of the image that they are constructing atop of themselves through posts and comments in virtual environments.
In case your child has an account on social media, teach them some good practices for their etiquette and safety:
- Never accept a friend request unless you know the person in real life;
- Never give away your full name, address, phone number, birthdate and name or location of your school;
- Avoid posting pictures with the school uniform or near the school or home to avoid having them easily identifiable;
- Always be nice and respectful when talking to others online, especially when commenting about something that you disagree with;
- Turn off localization settings on your phone, because that information can easily lead to strangers knowing about your personal life.
Don’t forget to follow what your kid does in social media, who are their virtual friends, and if the established rules are being followed. Help your kid manage the privacy settings in social media and never leave the account open to the public in general: the less people that see what your kid posts, safer will his future be.
Finally, promote a space of constant dialogue in which the kid can call you when they need help with something.And, of course, before your kid has access to the internet, you are the one who links the biggest part of the information with them. A big part of children today already have a virtual account before they are born, with parents posting photos or videos of the ultrasound. Therefore, be careful with what you post! Pictures of your naked baby can look cute now, but , to a teenager it can lead to bullying and annoyance in the future. Not to mention the danger of these photos ended up used out of context or even in pornography websites.
Aline Frederico is a PhD researcher in Children’s Literature at the University of Cambridge. Her focus is on interactive books for tablets. She collaborates with the newly created blog Literatura Infantil Digital and coordinates the project Historinhas em Cambridge, where she hosts storytelling sessions in Portuguese. At Plataforma Brasileirinhos, Aline coordinates the High Tech column.
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