Social media: How much should kids be allowed to share?

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Your children face a digital deluge of apps and social media. Many can’t go anywhere without their phones.

Sometimes, a click here and a click there can put kids at risk. Kids share status updates, pictures and videos, and they share them a lot. Some parents are uncomfortable with that.

WFLA talked with experts to make sure children know where to draw the line. The most important thing is to remember, experts say, is once it’s out there, it’s out there.

Children aren’t always thinking about the dangers they can put themselves in – or how social media activity could haunt them years later.

Snapchat, Instragram, and live.ly are just a few apps your kids may be using right now. It’s hard for parents to even keep track of all the apps. “A couple of weeks ago I found out about live.ly, which I didn’t even know about,” Bradenton mom Johanna Reilly said.

This app provides a live video chat apparatus for users. “(I) walked in on my son having a conversation,” Reilly said. “It was daunting.”

The mother of two was afraid her son could be one wrong click from making a really bad move. “Just the fact that he could choose to do the wrong thing in a second’s notice,” Reilly explained.

Her daughter, Jessica, uses Snapchat, where pictures last for several seconds. They then leave the app.

“Sometimes they just post things that just aren’t very good but usually they’ll take it down afterwards,” Jessica told WFLA.

However, it’s not hard for other users to save these posts. With a quickly screen grab those posts can be out there for good.

Status updates can be just as bad. “They’re posting, ‘Hey, we’re at this place this weekend,’” Johanna Reilly said, essentially telling a criminal there’s nobody home.

“Everyone’s busy,” she emphasized. “Life’s moving fast, and I just don’t think that everyone has their thumb on the trigger of what’s going on.”

How to protect children

Instead of playing a constant game of keep-away, experts recommend parents know the popular apps. Find out how children are using them.

“Look at social media together with your kids,” said Dr. Jenny Radesky of Mott’s Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan.

A study from the American Academy of Pediatrics says moms and dads should become “media mentors.”

That works for Johanna Reilly’s daughter. “I know that whatever I put up will be out there forever, no matter what happens,” Jessica said.

Take Snapchat as an example. Experts say you should ask your children to show you how they’re using it. Ask who they’re talking to.

It’s also important to remember colleges administrators and potential employers are looking at kids social media, especially Facebook. That’s just one more reason parents should keep their eyes peeled.

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