When it comes to online safety, social media has its’ own unique set of challenges for children. That’s why it’s important for parents and guardians to be involved aware of their child’s use of social media.
Regardless of age, it is important for you—the parent or guardian—to talk to your child about social media safety. Within this section, you’ll find information about popular social media platforms, social media safety tips, and overall advice that will help you keep your child safe online.
What is Facebook?
(For Ages 13+ – Ages 13-18, parent/guardian supervision is required)
Facebook is an online social media platform that has over two billion users across the world. It is available on all devices, including desktop computers, tablets, and smartphones. Users can add photos and videos, update their status, check-in at places, ask for recommendations, follow businesses or celebrities, or catch up on the latest news. Despite requiring users to be over the age of 13, there are no age verification measures, which makes Facebook easy for children to access.
Facebook Tips for Parents
Become Familiar with Privacy Settings – Facebook has multiple privacy settings your child can use for each piece of content they post, as well as settings for their personal profile. Facebook even has settings for how your child appears in searches done by other people or business profiles. Explore the privacy settings Facebook offers and talk with your child about how to use these settings appropriately. It is important for your child to know how their profile and posts appear to strangers and to only interact with people they know personally.
Lead by Example – Facebook is one of the most popular social media platforms for users of all ages. If you use Facebook, show your children how and why you use Facebook. Demonstrate how to use the platform appropriately and safely. This will help your child reduce the risk of posting or encountering potentially harmful content on their own profile.
Respect Boundaries – There are potential risks and dangers on Facebook, but once you’ve talked about social media safety with your child, give them some space. Trust your child to make smart choices and always be willing to talk about social media safety with them.
What is Instagram?
(For Ages 12+)
Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms available with over one billion users worldwide. This iOS and Android app allows users to upload images and videos to their personal feed, create interactive ‘stories,’ exchange private messages, or search, explore, and follow other accounts. Users have the option to make their profile public or private.
Instagram Tips for Parents
Restrict Direct Messages – If your child receives messages from someone they do not know, encourage them to decline the message and block the user. This prevents the user from being able to contact your child in the future.
Look out for Ads – Teach your child to look out for the signs of paid posts. Typically, these posts will say ‘sponsored’ in the upper left-hand corner of the post, directly below the username. It is important for children to understand that they do not have to agree with or follow trends from celebrity pages or popular pages. Encourage them to form opinions and smart personal choices on their own.
Use a Private Account – When your child creates an Instagram account, their profile is visible to the public by default. Your child has the option to change their profile visibility to ‘private.’ Private accounts are only visible when your child accepts or approves follower requests. Encourage your child to only accept requests from people they know personally.
What is Snapchat?
(For Ages 13+)
Snapchat is a photo-sharing app for mobile phones and tablets. The app allows users to share images, videos, and chat with friends through voice calls, video calls, or text messages. Users can share images and videos to specific friends, or through their personal ‘story,’ which is shared with their entire friend list. Images, videos, and chat messages shared between users can only be viewed when the recipient opens them, then they disappear. Stories are visible for 24-hours, then they disappear. Snapchat also has a ‘Snap Map’ feature, which allows users to track the location of other users. A user’s location updates when they have the app open.
Snapchat Tips for Parents
Know the Risk of Sexting – It can be uncomfortable talking with your child about this topic, but it will help protect them. Talk to your child about the consequences of sexting and make sure they are aware of the risks. If they post anything potentially embarrassing or harmful, it can have severe consequences on their future. Ensure your child is aware that the ‘Snaps’ they send can be screenshotted and saved.
Use Ghost Mode – It is highly recommended that children enable ‘Ghost Mode’ within the app, so that their location will no longer be visible to anyone. To enable this, open the app, swipe down to access the ‘Snap Map,’ click the settings icon in the top right-hand corner, and change the setting to ‘Ghost Mode.’
Turn Off ‘Quick Add’ – ‘Quick Add’ helps friends find each other on the app. This can be based on mutual friends, or if they have a friend’s phone number programmed in their contacts. Explain to your child that this feature can expose their profile to people they may not know. Recommend that they turn this feature off within the settings of the app.
What is TikTok?
(For Ages 18+ – Ages 12-18, parent/guardian supervision is required)
TikTok is a video sharing app available on iOS and Android. The app allows users to create, share, and view user-created videos. Its main draw is that users can record and upload bite-sized videos and loop them together for comedic effect.
TikTok Tips for Parents
Discuss Online Dangers – Assuming your child is above the age limit to use TikTok, make sure you talk to them about the content they are viewing on the app. Have a dialogue, encourage them to express their opinion on what content is appropriate, and help model appropriate behavior.
Explore the Family Safety Mode – TikTok Family Safety Mode allows parents to link their own TikTok account to their child’s. It’s a great way to oversee your child’s digital wellbeing by giving you direct control over their safety settings. When using the Family Safety Mode, you can adjust features remotely. This includes managing screen time, the ability to send and receive direct messages (and with whom), and the ability to restrict the appearance of content that may not be appropriate.
Learn How to Report and Block Inappropriate Content – With the proper privacy settings in place, TikTok can be a safe space for your child to express themselves. However, ensure your child knows how to recognize and report content that isn’t appropriate. Build an open line of communication so your child understands when it is important to bring inappropriate content to your attention. TikTok allows users to report inappropriate content and comments within the app.
What is Twitter?
(For Ages 13+)
Twitter is a social network where users can post ‘Tweets’ or short messages, photos, or videos publicly or privately. They can also share Tweets or messages by ‘Retweeting’ other users. Twitter is popular with younger people because it allows them to interact with celebrities, stay up to date with news, and follow popular trends or politics.
Twitter Tips for Parents
Use a Private Account – When your child creates a Twitter account, their profile is visible to the public by default. Your child has the option to change their profile visibility to ‘private.’ Private accounts are only visible when your child accepts or approves follower requests. Encourage your child to only accept requests from people they know personally.
Muting Accounts, Words, or Trends – The ‘Mute’ feature allows your child to remove tweets containing particular words or content they do not want to see on their timeline. Using this feature will not block or report users. It simply helps your child choose the type of content they want to see or follow on a regular basis.
Monitoring Sensitive Content – By default, Twitter can detect tweets that ‘may contain sensitive content.’ Twitter hides this content in the news feed. Your child will be shown a warning that states the content is sensitive. Your child will then have the option to click on the content to view the sensitive material. This gives you the opportunity to moderate potentially harmful or offensive content before your child does. According to Twitter’s policy, graphic, violent, hateful, or adult content may be hidden.