I love Twitter.
This unique social medium has introduced me to more amazing people around the world than I ever could have imagined! While there are countless wonderful bits of information, news and personal perspectives tweeted by the nanosecond, I've also learned there is a darker side to Twitter… a side about which parents need to be aware and informed.
I've personally been surprised at the number of ‘adult' or pornographic Twitter sites upon which I've unintentionally stumbled. Some have come to me in the form of Twitter followers, while others I've simply run across in my daily news feed… click on a link and BAM! A naked or graphic photo is suddenly staring me squarely in the face.
Alarmed at its prevalence, I started checking to see how easy it is to find adult sites on Twitter. Now, given what I do as a child advocate and forensic interviewer, I shouldn't have been as surprised as I was to find that within seconds… and I do mean literally less than 5 seconds… I was able to find numerous sites with nudity and rather graphic pornography. It was just a simple search and quick click away.
This discovery strongly reinforces my belief that parents must immerse themselves in their children's Twitter (and other social media) accounts. IMHO, the rule set by parents should be, “Your Twitter is my Twitter”, end of story. The good news is there are things you can do to help minimize your child's exposure to adult material on Twitter.
SAFETY TIPS -6 STEPS TO SAFER TWEETING
1) Follow Twitter's minimum age requirement of 13. Because Twitter is an open forum that publically shares information, all types of messages, (a.k.a. “tweets”) can be re-tweeted and appear on any given Twitter user's newsfeed. I really think this age requirement should be a minimum for all parents to consider, especially given the ease with which adult content can be accessed. A lot of kids, though, open Twitter accounts without their parents' knowledge and then lie about their age. Parents, you may want to check your kids phones, iPads, computers or other mobile devices to see if they have an active Twitter account.
2) Review your child's “followers”. Twitter followers are people who follow a given Twitter account or profile. Not only can your child's followers view your child's tweets, but they can also “direct message” (DM) your child, which enables them to send private, one-on-one messages. It's important for you to review your child's follower list to know who is communicating with your child. If you are uncomfortable with a follower, you can simply “block” that individual by using the drop-down box in the follower list.
3) Check “recent searches”. By clicking inside the “search” box at the top of your child's Twitter page, you can review a history of recent searches. This data can offer clues to the type of content your child may be viewing. Now, search histories can easily be cleared, so I would recommend checking this on the Q.T. as information for YOU to then follow-up with your child if needed. By that, I mean all kids are curious. If you bust 'em for searching something without having an open, civil dialogue with them, you may do more harm than good. I would suggest using that as a teaching opportunity for them to ask you questions and for you to reinforce your message with them in a safe, composed manner.
4) Protect children's tweets. There is a simple way to reduce the number of people who see your child's tweets via this security setting. Simply access “settings”, then select “security and privacy” and click the box that says, “protect my tweets”. This specifies that your child's tweets will only been seen by people who are approved followers and can't be re-tweeted to other unknown people.
5) Secure your child's Twitter password. Reinforce with your child NOT to share any passwords with friends — that's just a potential recipe for disaster. YOU, though, should know your child's password and, on a regular basis, access the account to just check things out. Remember, “trust but verify.”
6) Review your child's tweets. If your child has a Twitter account, so should you. Bite the bullet and open one. I love using Twitter, more than I ever imagined I would. You can easily review your child's tweets by being one of his/her “followers” — you can even have your child's tweets feed right to your phone as they happen.
Twitter also offers some safety tips for parents, which I highly encourage all parents to review before their child opens a Twitter account.
Again, please remember that Twitter is an open forum. I don't know of any sure-fire way to protect your children from all adult content on Twitter, but your active engagement in their Twitter accounts is certainly a strong place to start.
Working to improve the world one child at a time, Ginger has made it her life mission to raise awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and child forensic interviewer, Ginger can be contacted via her website “Ginger Kadlec: 4UrKids™” at www.gingerkadlec.com or find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gingergkadlec.
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