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How to Keep Your Kids Safe Online

12:44 PM, Apr 30, 2013   |    comments
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The majority of teenagers now have cell phones and as a parent you can't watch your kids 24/7, but you can take steps to make them safer as they use social media.

Tonawanda Police think an argument between two Kenmore West students that landed one of the girls in the hospital Friday night, started with fighting on social media.

"Do you think that this is a case of bullying?" asked Kelly Dudzik.

"You know, hard to put that label on it. You know, bullying is such a catch phrase right now you hear so often. I mean, kids picking on other kids has been going on since the beginning of time," says Tonawanda Police Lieutenant Nick Bado.

But these days, students no longer stick to fighting in the schoolyard.

"The difference between social media and your own house is that if you see your child doing things in your house, you pay attention to them. What are you doing in that kitchen? What are they doing down in that basement? But, on social media we tend to pull back a little bit," says digital strategist Rebecca Bernstein.

And that's exactly what you shouldn't do.

Bernstein has two daughters who both use cell phones, so she knows what it's like to worry about what her children could be exposed to while using social media.

"Growing up, my girls had a rule. They aren't allowed to be friends with anyone they've never met face to face," she says.

Bernstein says a lot of parents just don't know how to get the social media conversation started, but it's as simple as your teens showing you what's on their phone.

"What if your child says, no, I'm not showing you my phone?" asked Dudzik.

"Then you take the phone away," says Bernstein.

Her idea is that you should parent on social media how you would parent in any other situation. Use the same ground rules to keep your child safe. And, if you think someone
is harassing them online, they may need to take a break from their cell phone.

"One of the things you can do is not act and that's a very powerful thing. If someone's behaving rudely at a party to someone else, usually, someone else steps in and goes hey, you know, that's making me feel uncomfortable. That happens in social media, too. But, the important thing is to realize you don't have to respond to everything," she says.

Since you are probably paying the cell phone bill, Bernstein says there is nothing wrong with you controlling access to the apps your child can download. You should have a log-in and password that only you know so you have control and don't get any unexpected bills.

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