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Social Media Basics Every Parent Needs to Know About

January 19, 2023

It’s become increasingly common for kids to be on online social platforms. In fact, according to a 2022 survey by Common Sense Media, nearly 40% of American children use social media today. Despite being a beneficial means to connect with friends, family, and the world around them, social media can become a double-edged sword for your kids when their usage isn’t properly monitored. As a parenting podcast by Dr. Brooke Weinstein explains in the episode "How is Judgement on Social Media and Cyberbullying Affecting Your Child", social media can become a tool for bullying. Consequently, this can inflict lasting trauma on a young child. In line with this, as parents, you’re tasked with supporting your kids' mental health and helping them navigate online social spaces in a safe, productive, and healthy manner.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Below, this article will expound more on the most important social media basics you need to know about.

1. Privacy policies


Our post "What Your Digital Footprint Says About You", previously discussed how the information you share on social media can have a lasting impact on your life, especially if you aren’t careful about what you share, post, or engage with. Regarding your kid’s social media use, the personal data they offer online can cause them to fall victim to stalking and exploitation.

This is why it’s crucial for you to review a platform’s privacy policy and understand exactly how they collect data on your child's social media activity. Firstly, head over to your kid’s privacy policy settings to confirm that they aren’t sharing their birthdate or location. Second, check that your child’s status updates aren’t visible to the public and that they aren’t accepting friend requests from strangers. An NPR feature on child safety rules reports that in instances where your child’s personal data is identified, tech companies can show Facebook ads for products that aren’t legally supposed to be sold to them (including tobacco and alcohol). And depending on what your kids post online, said companies can promote topics like eating disorders or substance abuse, which can be detrimental to your kid's mental health.

2. Activate content filters


There is plenty of mature or potentially problematic content your kids can see on social media platforms. In CNN Business writer Samantha Kelly's article entitled "A Guide to Parental Controls on Social Media", it's explained that, fortunately, parents can block harmful graphics, photos, and videos by activating specific filters within the app.

Take, for example, TikTok, which has a safety feature that appoints a “maturity score” for videos that may contain complex or sensitive themes. In addition, the platform also has a tool that lets parents regulate their kids’ screen time. All you have to do is check the dashboard within the app that details how many times your child has opened TikTok. With this information, you can better gauge which filters to deploy that can foster a safer online experience for your child.

3. Disable direct messaging

While social media is great because it can connect kids to educational content and nurture their self-expression, it can also be the means for cyberbullying. Case in point, a 2021 Frontiers study on "Cyberbullying Among Adolescents and Children" stated that direct messaging features, in particular, can make your kids more susceptible to malicious comments or harmful speech.

The good news is that you can check the social media apps your kids frequent and change their messaging settings. The referenced CNN article above shared how TikTok lets parents restrict access to features like direct messaging (and even live video broadcasts) to younger kids. Discord, a messaging platform that’s gained popularity, also has an option that allows you to keep your child from receiving a message request from someone they don’t know.

Article written by Regina Jamie

Submitted to LifeBrand