People from every country engage on social media daily. For many of us, the first thing we do in the morning is spend a few minutes scrolling to see what we missed overnight. We’ve become so comfortable with how easy it is for us to engage with others, share information, and state our opinions that we forget there’s a price – our personal information and our data. We often forgo our concerns of safety, expecting social media companies to keep us protected.
It’s so easy to forget to keep our own information safe, that we sometimes forget to protect our kids too. As kids start to develop an interest in social media, there are some things parents and guardians might want to consider.
PEW Research Center’s most recent social media survey shows that 95% of children and teens in America have access to a cell phone. Of those kids, 85% say they use YouTube, 72% use Instagram, 69% use Snapchat, and over half use Twitter and Facebook.
From Snapchat to TikTok (yep, that’s a new one), here are some helpful tips for parents to make sure their kids stay safe online.
1. Be open to talking about social media safety with your kids
Most kids will use social media responsibly, but simply talking about which outlets they belong to, who they are connected with and what they are posting can help you communicate what responsible and respectful use looks like.
2. Don’t share personal information
All social media platforms let users see information about other users to some level, and some are more restricted than others. Facebook is the most revealing by giving users the option to show their home address, email, date of birth, and phone number. Thankfully, each piece of information has individual privacy settings. We suggest making sure all are viewable only to you.
3. Ask to see what they’ve posted
Follow your child’s accounts. Checking in to see if they are engaging in dangerous behavior can help prevent bigger problems. Teach them that their privacy is important and what they post does matter. The old credence “Don’t talk to strangers” is especially important online. Bad people can create entire fake personalities online that don’t seem threatening – it’s best to not friend people you don’t know.
The content kids share is just as important as who they’re friending. Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok are built on sharing images and videos. Remind your child to check their surroundings before sharing any pictures – identifiable documents or other items should be moved out of camera view.
4. Be aware of what’s new and popular
You may not even know all of the outlets your child is using to connect with people online. Obviously, you can’t keep up with every tech update and change; however, checking their phone for new apps or new log-in information can make sure you know where they’re engaging online and how they are using that outlet. It’s ok to limit how many apps they engage with or social media profiles they have.
5. Talk about cyberbullying
The anonymous nature of social media and the internet has fueled cyberbullying for years. However, education regarding online bullying can lead to prevention and help kids know when to ask for help. Kids need to know that they can talk to you if they or someone they know is being targeted online.
Find more information on online bullying at StopBullying.
Social media is wonderful to help connect the world. You can stay in touch with friends and family in ways that never used to be possible. However, there are dangers with social media and kids can often become targets. You should consider talking to your kids about responsible online behavior, even before they have their own profiles.
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