8 Tips To Keep Your Kids Safe On Social Media
As your kids get into grade school and become more and more tech savvy – and as our world becomes increasingly reliant on technology – it’s important to stay vigilant when it comes to social media use. Although social media has its benefits, such as having the ability to instantaneously connect us to the world around us, it can also have its downfalls — predators and cyberbullies, and an entire list of other dangers our children may encounter if we are not vigilant. A child’s misuse of social media can have serious consequences. Whether your child is asking for their own social media account or is already using social media, here are 8 things you need to do right now to help ensure your kids stay safe on social media.
Keep an Open Dialogue
You can’t monitor your kid’s social media activity 24/7, so it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. You want your child to feel comfortable talking to you about what they do on their computers or phones so that when there’s a problem they feel safe coming to you first. Talk to your kids about their online activities. Ask questions, show interest, and most important, remind them that it’s okay to come to you when there’s a problem, even if they’ve made a mistake.
Beyond talking to them about the consequences of misusing social media, which you should all discuss and have a clear understanding of as a family, you should also discuss the fun things they do online. Watch trending videos together, communicate with each other via social media, and share appropriate content. Open communication is the one thing that will make the biggest impact on your child’s choices. Your guidance and support will help them make the right choices and if they do make a mistake, they’ll know you’re there to help.
Educate Yourself About Social Media
Do you remember when there was only Facebook (or MySpace) to choose from? Today, there are tons of social media platforms and apps. As a parent, it’s so important to educate yourself and become familiar with the various platforms and to learn which ones your kids and their friends are using. Today’s kids prefer TikTok, Instagram and social media apps that you may not be familiar with. But are they appropriate for your child? In the end, it’s up to you to decide. Check out the social media apps other parents’ kids are using and do a little research of your own before agreeing to let your own kid dive in.
Follow Age Requirement Guidelines
As you familiarize yourself with social media sites your child is interested in using, also pay attention to minimum age requirements for each. According to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), most social media sites require users to be 13 and over when creating their own accounts (without parental permission).
Set Ground Rules for Social Media Use
Aside from setting an age requirement for when your child will be allowed to use social media, it’s important to set up ground rules for your child when it comes to social media use. It’s important that kids understand what information they can share and what details they should not share online. For example, some rules might include:
- When can they use it: After school, on the weekends, until 9 p.m., etc.?
- How much time during the day can they dedicate to social media?
- Are they allowed to post photos and/or videos? Does a parent need to approve the photos before posting?
- Are they allowed to post their location?
Establishing rules and guidelines will set expectations and instill positive habits. Empower your child by allowing them to set some rules of their own that way they’ll be less likely to break them and they’ll like you trust them in making good choices.
Set Up Parental Controls
It’s always best to keep computers, tablets, and other devices in common areas so that you can easily keep tabs on what your kids are doing online, including when they’re using social media. Aside from that you’ll want to make sure you’re also setting up parental controls on any device being used by your child. Parental controls can help you set screen time limits and monitor and limit the use of specific websites and social media apps. Ideally you’ll download an app that can help you monitor text messages and social media networks. There are parental control apps out there that can help you track how much time your kids spend on social media and even detect and notify you when inappropriate or alarming language is used.
Educate Your Child on Social Media Risks
Not accepting friend requests from strangers may be a given to you, but this might not be so clear and easy for kids to understand in the digital world. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who may be using social media as a way to find vulnerable kids to communicate with. Your kids need to know about these dangers and you must educate them about this specific social media risk. (Same holds true for online gaming). Explain to kids the reasons why it’s best practice to only accept requests from people they personally know in the real world. Discuss the risks and consequences that may come with not following this rule. Remind your child that they can always come to you with questions if they receive a friend request that they are not sure if they should accept, or anytime they are feeling uncomfortable about any communication they may receive on social media.
Check Your Child’s Privacy Settings
Once your child begins using social media, it’s important to stay vigilant. One way you can do that is by regularly checking your child’s privacy settings and ensuring they are updated. As you may know from your own social media use, sites are always changing things up and adding new security settings. To ensure maximum protection, you’ll want to make sure these are always updated. Often, when things change, privacy settings need to be manually updated. While checking on privacy settings, you’ll also want to make sure that your child’s account remains private. This means that only the people your child is friends with can see their account or profile. This is an important step to ensuring that your child’s content remains private and strangers won’t have access to it or misuse it.
Lead By Example
Many of us will agree that today’s constant connectivity can be distracting. Social media can add to those distractions, even put a strain on family life. To make things easier, you need to view yourself as a mentor to your child and engage in the same behavior you expect to see from them. Model good social media habits so they can see what a healthy relationship with social media looks like. Set your own social media ground rules and let your kids see you following those rules regularly. Set limits on how much time you spend on social media and make sure to put your phone down when it’s time to come together for dinner or for some fun family time. In other words, make sure you practice what you preach and let your kids see what responsible social media use looks like. Your kids will be more likely to follow your lead.