Digital Detectives: Teaching Kids to Identify Fake Facebook Friends

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How do you manage your Facebook friends?

Do you keep your list really tight and only include ‘active’ pals? Or do you accept everyone you’ve ever laid eyes on?

I have a Facebook for my real friends & family where I can post about personal things & rant about politics 🤣 and a business one for my Parent Coaching Business.

Do you accept all and sundry or are you more circumspect?

How do you discern if the requests that you receive are genuine or fake accounts?

According to reports, Facebook deleted a whopping 27.67 billion fake accounts between October 2017 and mid 2023 – which is 3.5 times more than the total population of the entire planet!

There are around 150 million fake Facebook accounts. So, it’s highly likely that you (and your kids) will have been affected.

Fake Facebook accounts are usually designed by clever cyber criminals who are trying to extract personal information from unsuspecting naive types – often kids and less tech-savvy types.

And why do they want our personal information?

It allows them to put together a profile that they can use to steal our identity so they can apply for loans, mobile phone plans, etc – but we’ll get to that later.

Experts believe that fake accounts fall into two categories, being operated either by a bot (aka web robot) or by an ill-intentioned human. But irrespective of type, there are several warning signs that an account is fake. If the account in question displays any of these signs, then avoid it at all costs:

So have you had a chat about this with your kids?

Here are some key tips to help them identify suspicious profiles:

  1. Profile Picture:
    • Check for stock photos: Fake accounts often use images that can be found on the internet. A quick reverse image search can help determine if the photo is used elsewhere online.
    • Look for signs of image tampering: Blurry, low-resolution, or professionally-taken photos that seem out of place can be red flags.
  2. Profile Information:
    • Incomplete or Vague Info: Legitimate users usually have detailed profiles. Sparse information, such as no hometown, school, or work details, can be suspicious.
    • Recent Account Creation: Check the profile’s timeline. If the account was created recently and lacks a history of posts, it might be fake.
  3. Friends List:
    • Mutual Friends: Lack of mutual friends with someone you don’t know personally can be a warning sign.
    • Random Friend Requests: Be cautious of friend requests from people who have no obvious connection to you.
  4. Behaviour:
    • Immediate and Excessive Interaction: Fake accounts often try to engage quickly with lots of messages, likes, or comments.
    • Inconsistent Posting Patterns: If the account has erratic posting habits, such as long periods of inactivity followed by sudden bursts of activity, it could be fake.
  5. Content Quality:
    • Generic or Sensational Posts: Fake accounts often share generic, sensational, or clickbait content.
    • Language Use: Poor grammar and unusual language can indicate a fake profile.
  6. Friends’ Warning Signs:
    • Duplicate Profiles: Be wary of accounts that seem to duplicate the profiles of people you already know.
    • Friend Reports: Sometimes friends will warn you about suspicious accounts they’ve encountered.
  7. Online Tools:
    • Reverse Image Search: Use tools like Google’s reverse image search to verify profile pictures.
    • Profile Verification Tools: Some online tools and browser extensions can help verify the legitimacy of social media profiles.
  8. Privacy Settings:
    • Limit Public Information: Encourage kids to keep their profiles private and share information only with friends they know personally.
    • Be Skeptical: Teach kids to be cautious about accepting friend requests and to think critically about the information and people they encounter online.
  9. Reporting and Blocking:
    • Report Suspicious Accounts: If they suspect an account is fake, they should report it to Facebook.
    • Block Unwanted Contacts: Blocking accounts that seem suspicious can prevent further interaction.

By following these guidelines, kids can better protect themselves from interacting with fake accounts and maintain a safer online presence.

These are the sorts of conversations we have on my new podcast ‘Navigating the Digital Jungle with Sue Atkins and Friends’ – talking about real problems with positive ideas around tech and family life.

Join us as we explore the challenges parents face in the digital age and uncover strategies for navigating the ever-changing landscape of online safety, screen time management, and digital literacy.

Hear from fellow parents as they share their experiences, concerns, and insights on raising children in today’s digital jungle.

Join me on the journey for expert advice, real-life stories, and practical tips to help you guide your family through the digital wilderness.

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