4 Social Media Safety Tips for Kids Parents Need to Know
Social media and the internet in general are a huge part of the daily lives of the young people of this generation. Kids and tweens today often spend more hours online chatting to friends or scrolling through social media than they do in the real-world.
It makes sense since technology has greatly advanced even over the last few years. So, it’s no surprise that teens and even young children are interested in social media and connecting with other kids their age online.
Related: 5 Ways Social Media Effects Kids’ Mental Health
However, the internet isn’t always safe so a parent needs to know how to keep their child from viewing inappropriate content. We are going to talk all about social media safety, what red flags to look for, as well as tips to ensure online safety for your children. That way, they can enjoy their time online and you can have peace of mind.
Benefits of Social Media for Kids and Teens
Believe it or not, social media can be beneficial for kids and teens. Here are some benefits of using social media for kids.
1. Forming Online Friendships and Improving Socialization Skills
Keeping in contact with friends online or making friends who live far awy can do wonders for kids’ mental health and socialization skills especially during times like the pandemic when your teen was likely feeling isolated. Since there were many school closures, social media likely kept them connected to their friends.
Websites like Tumblr, TikTok and Discord can also be a creative outlet where kids’ find others to bond over their interests in everything from Tv shows, music, games, history, fashion, and everything else!
Many teens who feel alone or bullied at school for being different can often find a community online as well. Communities for girls with autism or teens with ADHD have become very popular spaces on platforms like TikTok where tweens and teens find comfort in relating to each other.
2. Social Media Can Promote Creativity and Self-Expression
Many kids use social media as a way to share their artwork, writing or fanfiction, original music, or other projects they’re working on. Having an outlet to post and receive feedback on their hobbies is important for kids to feel like their interests matter.
If your child is shy, it may help them to open up and share ideas with their friends on the internet and allow for their form of personal expression. Many tweens and teens say that posting selfies on social media is a way that they express themselves and feel good about their self-image.
3. Social Media Empowers Kids to Learn New Things
Many teens and children look to social media platforms to learn about different cultures and societal issues. TikTok has become a popular place for kids and tweens to have political discussions on current events and social trends. Plus, it can be good for them to see other outlooks on specific important topics.
Risks of Social Media for Kids and Teens
There are dangers to look out for when it comes to social media and it can have a negative impact.
Bullying or harassment online can be something that many preteens and teens face while on social media apps and other websites. It can be hard to prevent cyberbullying, as it can happen almost anywhere, including through emails and text messages.
There are so many ways to be scammed online, and it’s important that your child I aware of the signs to look for. They should never give money to anyone they do not know, as well as any personal information like a phone number or social security number. It’s very easy for kids to fall victim to identity theft online if they are not properly monitored and informed of how to recognize the signs of a scam.
3. Spending Too Much Time Online
Without clear boundaries, most teens will spend hours buried in their phones or computer. It is your job to set up screen time restrictions if you believe it is necessary. Examples are a certain time at night when they should unplug, keeping cell phones put away at the dinner table and more. Believe it or not, it can be addicting.
What Do I Need to Know Before My Kids Join Social Media?
Before you allow your kids to join social media, it’s important to know that you will not be able to protect them from every single danger. Being knowledgeable and sharing your concerns with them from the beginning can open up more communication. This way if something happens that makes them uncomfortable, they know you are a safe space for them to go to.
However, despite being prepared, you will never be prepared for every single thing. Make sure you develop some trust in your child before they sign up for any social media apps.
1. Dealing with Cyberbullying on Social Media
If your child is being cyberbullied, how do you handle it? Honestly, it depends on where it is coming from. Is it a stranger, or someone they know like a friend or peer from school? This can happen during an online chat in video games, on social media accounts, in emails, or even in texts. Either way, it’s good for your child to know how to handle cyberbullying.
- Don’t respond or retaliate. This can lead to escalation.
- Block the person to prevent further contact.
- Ignore the bully and try not to take what they say personally.
- Always communicate with a parent. Let your child know you are a safe space to discuss the experience.
2. Keeping Kids Safe on Social Media from Online Predators
We can’t always keep our kids 100% safe on social media, especially from online predators. This can be an adult posing as a child, who is trying to get personal information and photos from kids. it is easier now than ever for strangers to find out sensitive information just from pictures.
An example of this is posting the first day of school pictures of your child with the popular chalkboards that include their school name and teacher’s name. It is easy enough for anyone to do an online search and find the school’s address. The same can be said about tagging your location on social media as well.
Social media apps like TikTok have experienced data leaks as well. Like many apps, they use an algorithm to show you appropriate ads based on web pages you have previously viewed.
Recently, it has been discovered that your IP address can be tracked through TikTok. Though, this has been claimed to be fixed. It is also known that TikTok has taken measures for the safety of minors including automatic private profiles for anyone under 18 and parental controls.
To keep kids safe from predators and grooming, you must take steps to protect their identity. This includes limiting pictures and information shared about school and home addresses.
3. The Harmful Effects of Social Media on Body Image
What your child sees online can hurt their body image. We already know that society sets unrealistic expectations when it comes to what someone should look like. This includes articles about fad diets and celebrities in magazines. There are even more dangers now on social media.
Apps like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat have the option to use something called filters. Most of these are fun and harmless, while others are not. Some of the “beauty” filters set horrible standards that make kids and even some adults compare themselves to what they see on the internet.
The same can be said about things like Photoshop, where anyone can alter their appearance in photos. Wrinkles, stretch marks, acne, scars, etc are all normal parts of the human body and these filters make them out to be “bad” or “wrong.” However, kids choose to cover those things up to raise their self-esteem.
4. Creating a Social Media/Screen Time Plan with Your Kids
Setting boundaries with your teen before they dive into social media can be a very effective strategy. We will provide you with some examples of how to set up a family media plan with your child and how to encourage communication if they have a negative experience.
- Limit Social Media Use
Designating times or “curfews” can help you to monitor their screen time and internet usage. Set a designated time when they should stop scrolling for the night.
- Choosing the Social Media Networks
If there is a particular app or social media site like Snapchat that you don’t want them to use, explain what they are allowed to sign up for and why.
- Set Up Parental Controls
Some platforms allow for parental controls. These can help you control your adolescent’s privacy settings. This can also include filtering their friend requests as well.
- Be Clear on What to Share/Not Share
Communicate what is appropriate and inappropriate online activity (sexting, photo sharing, profanity, etc.) so your child knows whether or not they can share information about their real life with an internet friend.
For more information on how to keep your kids’ safe on social media check out, A Complete Guide of Potentially Dangerous Apps for Kids.
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Stefanie is a freelance parenting writer and blogger, and has published works on other publications such as Motherly.