If you're allowing your under-age children to have social media accounts you should have some very strict rules for them.
Rumours are flying around that Google is considering creating accounts specifically designed for children. More and more parents are ignoring the Coppa law* and creating accounts for their kids anyway. To deter this behaviour it's rumoured that Google is designing accounts especially geared towards kids.
*A US law called Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or Coppa, imposes strict controls on the collection and use of information about children under 13.
These laws aren't international so many parents ignore the age restriction and create Google and other social media, especially Facebook, accounts for their kids. But if parents do decide to go this route they should put strict rules in place for internet use.
It's not just an email account
Parents should be aware that when they sign their kids up for a Gmail address they're actually creating a Google account with access to other services such as YouTube and Google+. And while many people scoff at Google+ the scary thing is that anyone can add your child to a circle to follow. That's why as a parent you need to follow the following steps when creating any account.
1. Go through the security settings
Going through your child's privacy and and security setting is imperative. Make sure that they are not sharing pictures of themselves with strangers. This also controls who can see their profiles and who can contact them.
Turning the Safe Search on in the Google search options will ensure that adult content is filtered. This is not 100% accurate but will ensure that they will have a safer internet experience.
2. Parental controls
Ensuring that the parental controls are on gives you a peace of mind that your child isn't accessing unsavoury websites. There is software that parents can install that ensure their kids are safe online.
If your children play any online games take a look if they have parental controls. Blizzard for instance, has parental controls that allow you to set the amount of time your child can play as well as set specific times for game play. You can also disable in-app purchases and voice chat. It's still important to check up on who your child is friends with and that they don't give out any personal information when online.
Make your email address the primary address for all services they sign up for. That way whenever they attempt to change their password, you are notified. All friend requests also go via you first and that way you can be sure that they are interacting with people they actually know.
This also means you can keep an eye on any cyber-bullying which is a big problem amongst pre-teens and teenagers.
4. Behaviour online
The most important thing however is to sit down and set rules with you children for being online. Set up a list of sites they're allowed to visit and remind them that you can check the browser history.
Speak to them about the dangers of speaking to strangers and that they shouldn't give out any personal details online. Also teach them not to be trolls and bullies, that the words they put online can hurt others even if said behind the cloak of anonymity.
Do you allow your kids under-13 to have online accounts? What rules do you have in place for them?