I recently attended a talk on Internet and social media safety and was shocked by many things, but one trend in particular was of great concern. Our speaker, who was a member of law enforcement, told us that kids are sharing their passwords with their best friends and this leaves them wildly exposed.
A quick Google search when I got home revealed that 1 in 5 teens (19 percent) report that they have shared a password with a friend, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. Why are they doing this? It seems sharing passwords is the new form of social currency. It signifies “trust” with a close friend or “intimacy” between a young couple. And we, as parents, demand to know our kids’ passwords, so giving them to their friends is just an extension of that behavior in their minds. It makes me think of how we shared our locker combinations back when I was in school (something with far less significant implications). It also makes life easier for them. Now when they’re doing something, they can ask their friend to check their messages or post that cute photo on their account.
So why is this so bad? As we all know, not all friendships last and when they turn hostile, having a “frenemy” know your child’s password leaves them totally vulnerable online. They can send hurtful texts from your child’s account, snoop through their pictures or messages, and post unflattering photos on their accounts. What can you do about it?
- Talk to your kids about not sharing their passwords.
- Sit with them periodically to make sure they change passwords on all of their accounts.
- Make sure they share all of their passwords with you.
Social media dangers are all to real, and keeping passwords secure is one important step in keeping kids safe online.