COLUMBIA (WACH) -- With the kids back in school that means they will be spending more time online doing schoolwork and communicating with friends. It can also be a recipe for disaster if parents don't monitor their child's activity properly.
As technology grows and makes this a smaller world, it opens up new opportunities for learning, commerce, and more. Unfortunately, experts point out the same tools that make our lives easier can make our worlds more dangerous, especially for our children.
"The more engaged and involved parents are the more curious they are, the better, " said WACH FOX technology correspondent Stephen Miano from That Computer Store in Irmo.
That's especially true when it comes to social media like, Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites. Miano advises all parents to be mindful of what their children are doing and be aware of their child's usernames and passwords so they can keep tabs on what they are doing.
"A kid might be chatting with someone online who seems super cool, sending them pictures and things like that," said Miano. "No big deal, right? But, a lot of smart phones now are geotagging pictures by default."
And that means when you send that picture your location is attached to it. If the person you're online with is pretending to be someone they're not, and is, in fact, a bully or predator they will know your child's address, current location, or hangout spot. Miano calls it a "big issue."
Miano advises parents to put parental controls in place to limit the programs kids have access to. There are applications available they can even limit the time of day they can have access to it. If you're not familiar with the programs or how to install them don't be afraid to ask a technology expert.
"Your kids are going to evolve and become their own people, but as parents and caregivers, we have to be involved and engaged in that," said Miano.
He offers the following tips:
- Remind children and teens that the hot awesome guy/girl they just "met" online may not be who they claim to be. It's easy to grab a random picture of someone attractive and pose as them. Predators do it everyday.- Make sure kids don't sign up to random online chat or game services without letting you know. Most legitimate services get parental backup, but many risky ones do not.- Beware the growing threat of sexting and picture taking. With smart phones commonplace, and hi-rez cameras everywhere, the temptation to take a risky picture might be overwhelming for impressionable kids.
Be aware of warning signs from your kids. Click here for a list of things to be aware of.