Catfishing: What Parents Need to Know

Catfishing, it’s a phrase that most people associate with the hit MTV Show ‘Catfish’. In terms of online safety catfishing is a serious concern in particular for the parents of teenagers. Our most recent research at Zeeko found that, students in secondary school had more contacts with strangers online, specifically: 50% of male and 32% of females versus 28% of boys and 11% of girls in primary school. Speaking with strangers online increased progressively throughout primary and secondary school years culminating in 62% for students attending 6th year

What do you need to know about catfishing to ensure that your child stays safe and is protected from being Catfished?

Catfishing is pretending to be someone you’re not online, by posting false information, such as someone else’s pictures, on social media sites. This is usually with the intention of getting someone to fall in love with you. Adults as well as teens are open to being catfished, but it is a very serious situation for a young person to find themselves in.

You can educate your teenager about Catfishing by talking to them about the following things:

  • Talk to your child about the importance of not using their own image to identify their social media accounts, in particular on Twitter or Facebook.
  • Remind your child to make sure that they only ‘friend’ someone on the social media who they know and that they have met in the ‘real world’ and not just online.
  • Encourage your child to exercise the same level of caution that they do when they are online as when they are offline. Remember that what happens online is not always an accurate reflection of what is actually happening. This is something that needs to be regularly talked about from an early age, so that by the time your child is a teenager they have a strong sense of the fact that social media is merely a snippet of people’s lives.
  • Ensure that safety settings are activated and/or regularly reviewed on all the social media accounts your child has.
  • You can search for images of your child online using Google Images. If you are not happy with the images you can delete the image from the source website.
  • If your teenager is in a relationship, make sure that your child introduces you to the their boyfriend or girlfriend and that they are spending time together face to face and not just online.