Is Your Kid a Twitter Addict?

Social media certainly has its place in a teen’s life. But as a parent, one of our most important roles these days is not to let our teens become “twidiots” or twitter addicts.

With its infamous 140-charater limit, Twitter hosts stars with millions of followers (hello, Charlie Sheen, Oprah, Kim Kardashian). When teen idol Miley Cyrus decided to fire up her Twitter account again a couple of months ago, it became semi-big news.

Twitter and Facebook dominate the news far too much, if you ask me. The media’s love affair with social media knows no bounds — and it’s out of control.

The problem is there are real dangers that your Twitter-obsessed teen – or anyone who uses the microblogging service – must keep in mind. Here are the two big ones:

Phishing Scams: First of all, Twitter users are repeatedly the target of phishing scams. Scammers send direct messages or tweets that include a generic message (such as “You’re on this video” or “I think I see you here”) to get people to click on a link. The link takes you to a fake Twitter page that asks you to log in with your username and password, which the scammer then uses to hijack your account.

Malware: Second, fake Twitter profiles have been used to spread malicious software (known as malware). Many times, scammers use fake celebrity profiles or fake news about celebrities to lure you in. These profiles and tweets look legit. But they are created to infect your computer with malware that lets the scammer use your computer to send spam, install spyware, steal your identity or launch attacks on other computers.

I’m not suggesting that your teen should never tweet. I’m just advocating social-media life balance. Tell your teen why it’s a good idea to take his eyes off the screen and take a break from Twitter. Then, set some clear Twitter rules for your kids:

  • Post no more than one or two tweets per day. Unless your kids have a very compelling reason for sending more (they won’t), this shouldn’t be an issue.
  • Don’t auto-follow everyone. Are more than a couple of hundred followers really necessary? Do you really want a bunch of strangers constantly knowing what your kid is doing and thinking?
  • Beware of phishing and malware. Educate your kid about the phishing scams and malware risks out there. Knowing what to look for will help them avoid trouble.
  • Know that mom/dad is watching. Let your kids know you’ll be following them too.

About the Author

Tom Dunlap is a freelance writer and editor based in Santa Cruz, Calif. He writes for a variety of print and online publications, including PC World,,, and


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