Should I worry that I don't know who my kids' online friends are?
Not necessarily. Kids' online friends are typically pals from school, sports, or other groups they're involved in. In fact, kids often strengthen their real-world friendships by connecting online. However, plenty of kids belong to certain online communities -- such as those related to Minecraft, LEGO, and the Hunger Games -- where they don't know the real identities of the other members. That may be fine, since online groups such as these often are bonded by a common purpose and don't bother engaging in negative behavior.
Certain precautions will help keep online relationships safer:
- Make sure your kids set privacy settings that prevent people they don't know from contacting them.
- Check in frequently with your kids about whom they're interacting with, whether they've ever been contacted by a stranger, and if they ever "prune" their contact lists by deleting or blocking acquaintances.
- Make sure they know not to share personally identifiable information.
- Ask about your kids' online relationships and what they're learning from their online interactions.
- Talk about why they should never make plans to meet a stranger offline.