By Stephanie Olson

Social media can be a dangerous place for young children to openly give out their information whether it be in their biographies or by what they post. On the other hand, social media is the perfect place for predators to find vulnerable, young teenagers that they can speak with and try to manipulate.

Young teenagers, usually by the time they start Middle School, begin to get curious about the internet and want to connect with their friends online, which leads to their creation of social media profiles like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. “According to Bark’s 2022 Annual report, 14.2 percent of teens have encountered predatory behaviors from someone online” (The bark team, 2023)  and technology will only continue to advance as time goes on, which increases the likelihood of them running into online predators.

Instagram has something called the “explore page” where anybody is able to see other user’s posts through. You can even look up the exact type of post that you want to see by searching a specific hashtag or typing in a key word in the search. This is an easy way for a predator to find exactly who they are looking for and are able to easily send a quick direct message to young teens online. Although there aren’t a lot of ways to protect yourself online, parents should be making their teens put their accounts private and making sure there isn’t any personal information they are sharing in their biography. For example, their age, the state they live in, what school they go to, who they are dating, and so much more information they are willingly putting out for anyone to see.

It is extremely important for parents to educate themselves on the multitude of dangers their child could potentially run into on social media. To then have a serious talk and inform their children of these dangers and what they need to do to protect themselves in situations like this. Parents aren’t able to constantly watch what their child is doing online or monitor them 24/7, so it is best to be honest with these teenagers by giving them the information and tools they need to protect themselves when the time may come.

The best way to go about protecting children from dangerous people online is to inform them of what dangers they need to look out for. Giving them examples of what these predators want to do and why they are doing this will help the child understand why they need to stay away from online strangers and how to protect themselves. Providing them with tips on how to be more safe on the internet like creating stronger passwords, always making accounts private, or limiting the personal information they should put out there will help them navigate the internet with more precaution.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you come across a dangerous situation online with a stranger?
  2. What precautions do you take on social media to protect yourself from dangerous situations?
  3. What can you do to help stay safe on the internet while using social media?
  4. Have you ever caught yourself in a dangerous situation online and didn’t know how to get out of it?
  5. Do you feel like you would be more safe online if you knew about all of the dangers that are out there?


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