Kids are more active on social media than ever before. In fact, 95 percent of teens reported access to a smartphone, with 45 percent saying they are online “on a near-constant basis.” And more than half of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 are active on YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook. So, how can you best protect your child from the potential dangers of social media?
Our Top Social Media Safety Tips
Establish an Age Limit
Pressure from classmates and friends could start the social media conversation between you and your child earlier than expected. Most platforms require users to be 13 years or older, so consider using that age as a minimum starting point. If you decide to allow access to certain platforms earlier, be clear about usage boundaries (more on that below).
Learn What’s What
If your child is creating a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter account, you may want to, too. Know how each platform works, make your own account and friend or follow your child. Keep an eye on what they are posting, who their friends are and what content they are browsing.
On Instagram, you can click over to the “Following” section of the liked posts feature to see the content your child is engaging with. And on YouTube, you can check the history to see what videos they’ve watched.
Keep it Private
The younger your child, the stricter their privacy settings should be. Help your child set posts, likes and every other possible interaction to a “friends only” setting, which will help protect against unwanted interactions with internet strangers.
And because privacy settings on platforms change from time to time, you’ll want to occasionally load your child’s accounts while logged off (from yours) to be sure they aren’t accessible. If this is the case, then strangers won’t be able to view them, either. You can add a further layer of privacy protection by creating strong passwords.
You may want to set strict limits, but consider a more reasonable approach to internet usage for your child. Social media can nurture relationships, help kids develop useful technological skills and expose them to rich new experiences. If you’re too strict, your kid could miss out on some valuable opportunities.
Have a Conversation
Talk to your child about their online activities. Ask about the relationships they have online with friends and classmates, and if they’ve noticed any unusual behavior from any accounts. Discuss who is requesting to view their pages or profiles, and encourage them to speak up if they see anything inappropriate or suspicious.
Teach Them to Think Before Posting
Your child may not realize that every email, text, direct message, post and comment leaves a digital footprint, or that there are scammers searching for personal information online. Have a discussion about the harm in sharing too much information, not just on social media, but in all forms of digital communication. Putting personal details out there like phone number, address and school could have some scary unintended consequences.