Keeping Kids Safe on Social Media
This topic is – and should be – of monumental importance to all parents with kids.
Anyone who has spent more than a week on social media … including platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and all the others … knows how quickly those platforms can turn from fun, informative and useful sources of communication into the dankest chambers of human depravity and hatred.
Nobody wants to expose kids to that.
So how to protect our children from the worst of social media is a question of sociology, psychology, good parenting, cultural awareness, open communication and transparency … and a good dose of just plain luck. In other words, it’s almost impossible to completely protect your kids from the dark side of social media. But you’ve got to try.
- Set some limits. Every kid eventually wins the argument by telling you, the parent, “Hey, if I had my own phone, I could call you if I’m stranded somewhere or in trouble.”
That is true, but having a phone also means your child also has access to everything on the web, and all the social media platforms. And they will be able to contact and converse with their friends, who will often send them a link to a video or platform and say “Hey, take a look at this!”
No parent enjoys being the Screen Policeman, but it is important to set some limits for your kids on screen time, platforms they can use and friends they can talk to privately. Setting limits comes with communication: you must explain why some parts of the wider world are off limits while they’re young, and stress the importance of privacy and being careful about who they talk to online.
Every social media platform has recommended age limits for using their service (age 13 seems to be the most popular). But those are just recommendations, not hard rules. As a parent, only you understand the social maturity of your child, and that varies wildly from kid to kid.
- Privacy settings. Most social networks allow users the option of making their account private, viewable only by those invited by the user. This helps remove predators and other bad types from preying on young people’s naivete.
Insist on keeping your kids’ social media accounts private, and check frequently to make sure they are.
- Guard against over-sharing. Stress with your kids how important it is not to share personal information with strangers: phone numbers, addresses, photos, etc. Don’t allow them to invite people they don’t know to share information.
- Monitor, monitor, monitor. Watch how your kids use social media, check on the platforms they frequent, watch for messages and content from people you don’t know and check and re-check the privacy settings. Also keep an eye out for behavioral changes in your kids. Cyberbullying, unwanted sexual advances and psychological trauma can all result in changes in your kid.
- Communicate. Be open with your kids. Tell them why you have to monitor their social media use. Explain the reasons for your concerns. And set a good example yourself by using social media wisely.
Kids will get up to the darndest things …. That’s why they’re kids! Your job is to help guide them through all their life experiences, including learning how to wisely and safely use technology