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Social Media Safety: How can parents help children safely navigate potential perils?

Watch “Social Media Safety” #LiveOnKMTR NBC 16 Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

Social media has become a ritual, especially for the younger generation.

So how do parents help their child navigate the pitfalls of social media?

In “Social Media Safety”, Alan Matthews talks with parents, law enforcement, school administrators and even students about social media.

According to Jared Taylor, "Kids understand technology a year or two ahead of us. And so for us to put roadblocks in front of kids, be it apps that screen what they watch or ways for us to control their data. All sorts of things. If we think we're ahead, we're actually behind. that's the danger of social media."

Jared Taylor knows the pitfalls of navigating social media. He is a school administrator and a parent. In those roles, he knows it takes more than just awareness.

Taylor adds, "What we hear from parents is that they're fully aware of the dangers, they just don't have the tools all the time to know what to do to combat these dangers. So they feel like they're helpless at times.")

School districts in the area have been offering night for parents, community members, and others to learn about keeping kids safe on the internet. Detective Matt Neiwert from the Springfield Police Department speaks to groups about the existing dangers of the internet. One common question is parental rights.

"So parents absolutely have the right to search their kids electronic devices, their phones, their vehicles. they're responsible for what their kids are doing up until the time these kids are 18," says Neiwert.

According to Detective Neiwert, sexting and the sharing of sexually explicit material is a major problem online. It's not just adults luring children into sharing, but students also passing this material with each other. Neiwert adds that kids may not understand the legal consequences of their choices.

"We're trying to educate kids on the fact that some of what they're doing. They may be committing crimes by doing it. We don't want to make teenagers into felons because they're making bad decisions doing these things."

It's more than just sexual material that can be a concern. Cyberbullying and inappropriate comments can also lead to missteps.

So how do parents approach the subject of social media?

John Brown is the parent of two and uses example as a way to teaching tool, especially for his teenage daughter.

"Showing examples to my children of how other children that they know have made mistakes in regards to their social media behavior opens their eyes. I don't think they realized how negative and how bad things can go once someone posts a picture of somebody else or does something malicious about somebody else or teases somebody online."

Two other methods echoed by the parents; talk to your child before they participate in social media and setting restrictions when they begin.

I talked with a group of students from thurston high school about any restrictions that were placed on them.

All of kids had restrictions when they started, but like Braden Spear, those restrictions were lessened with age.

"Right now no. But when i first joined instragram and snapchat, there were a lot restrictions. I was supposed to have my profile in private so my mom or my dad could filter who could follow me and I couldn't follow anyone without their permission.")

The school district works on teaching their students about responsible electronic device usage in a program called REAL, short for respect, excellency, advocacy, and leadership. Decision making in terms of their devices is a key to the program. The teens we talked with were fully aware of the existing pitfalls.

Madisen Hill has friends who have regretted their postings.

"I have had quite a few friends or people that I've known, who they've said something or put something online about someone else or about themselves. and it came back and the results weren't real positive."

So while the fears exist and are real, Brown feels there is still a positive element to the internet

"I'm optimistic. The future, like I said, is going to have good and bad. Social media and the internet has positive applications as well. And I think they far outreach the negative. It's just a new type of threat and we have to adapt to it."

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