The thought of a child going missing is every parent’s nightmare, but it happens all too often. Each year, on May 25, National Missing Children’s Day is observed, bringing attention to the stories of kids like Etan Patz, whose disappearance led President Ronald Regan to establish the day in 1983. Protecting kids has become infinitely more complex today, when children are almost always online, but for parents, learning what to do to keep kids safe should be second nature.

The threats to children that lurk online might seem completely innocuous, but without the right guidance, kids can get themselves into bad situations, from identity theft to talking with predatory adults. Keep these tips in mind to help children use the Web safely.

* Monitor social media use. Many kids will object loudly to having a parent watching their every move on Facebook, Twitter or other sites, but laying down strict ground rules will ultimately be a good protective measure. Simply “friending” or “following” kids isn’t always enough – they can control who sees certain posts and might leave mom and dad out.

* Get to know the lingo. The emails, texts, posts and tweets your child sends out might not seem to be written in any recognized language, but they’re definitely putting a message across. Do some research to find out what abbreviations mean and get the gist of what kids are really writing.

* Teach the risks of oversharing. Kids naturally want to use social media and the Internet to connect with others, but they might not be aware that putting too much information out there can come back and haunt them. Show kids not only how-but why-they shouldn’t put too much of their personal information on the Web, where identity thieves, predators and bullies might find it.

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