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.
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