Twitter Privacy and Safety Tips for Parents

Mom freaking out over what she read on Twitter
Photo: Andersen Ross / Getty Images

Following someone on Twitter is a lot easier than becoming their friend on Facebook. Kids often consider the number of followers they have on Twitter as a measure of their popularity. The problem is that there may be people following your child on Twitter that have no business doing so. Your kids may be unwittingly providing complete strangers (Twitter followers) with their location information as well as other personal information that they shouldn't share.

How can a parent find out who is "following" their child on Twitter and how can parents prevent strangers from following their child in the first place?

Have your child log into their Twitter account, click "Settings", and then consider making the following changes to their account:

1. Remove Personal Information From Their Twitter Profile

Your child most likely uses an alias or fake name on Twitter. In addition to your child's Twitter alias, there is a field in their Twitter profile settings page that lets them enter their "real" name. It's best to remove this, because it provides personal info that could aid someone in finding out more information about your child.

You should also consider clearing the checkbox that says "Let others find me by my e-mail address" as this creates another link between your child and their Twitter account. In addition to personal information, you may want to make sure that your child is not using a photo of themselves as their Twitter profile picture.

2. Turn off the "Tweet Location" Feature

The "Tweet Location" feature provides the current geolocation of the person posting a tweet. This could be potentially harmful if your child tweets something like "I'm all alone and bored." If they have enabled the Tweet Location feature, then their location is tagged and published along with their tweet. This would provide a predator with the knowledge that the child is alone as well as giving them their exact location. Unless you want your child's location to be available to strangers, it's best to turn off the Tweet Location feature.

3. Turn on the "Protect My Tweets" Feature

The "Protect My Tweets" feature is probably one of the best ways to prevent unwanted people from "following" your child on Twitter. Once this feature is turned on, tweets produced by your child will only be available to people that are "approved" by you or your child. This doesn't get rid of all the current followers, but it does create an approval process for future ones. To remove current unknown followers, click on a follower and then click the gear icon next to the follower's alias. This will show you a drop-down list where you can click "remove".

To find out more information about a follower, click on "followers", and then click the alias of the follower you want to know more about.

4. Follow Your Child on Twitter

Your kids may not be crazy about the idea of having you follow them on Twitter, but it helps you to be able to see what they are saying, what people are saying about them, and what links, videos, and pictures others are sharing with them. This could also help ensure that you would be first to know if there was any cyberbullying or other shenanigans going on. Also check their settings periodically to make sure that they haven't set everything back to wide-open.