Social media platforms are growing increasingly popular in our digital age. However, when everyone in the world seems to have a social media profile, it can be challenging for a parent to monitor online activity to keep a child safe on social media.
Educator Paulette Chaffee, encourages parents to take a proactive approach rather than overreacting and driving kids to social media secrecy. She suggests these simple steps to guide a parent’s approach to keeping kids safe while using the internet and social media:
1. Embrace Open Communication
Creating an open dialogue with a child about their online activity supports safety more than secrecy. For example, when a child logs into a phone or computer to scroll through social media, a parent can show interest in what a child is reading or who they are talking to. In addition, providing positive feedback and responses during the discussion helps foster open communication throughout a child’s development.
Open communication allows a parent to talk about moral boundaries and what is appropriate. Discussing online reputation and how that can affect a child’s future is also critical during open talks. But, of course, a parent who harps on all the negative aspects of social media will quickly shut a child down from wanting to continue open communication.
The dangers of social media like psychological trauma, cyberbullying, unwanted predators, and revealing too much private information are vital to address. However, parents should also discuss the benefits of social media, such as positive connections, collaboration, and self-expression.
2. Turn to Age Requirement Guidelines
Not every family is going to approach social media in the same way. For instance, a child may notice that a friend or peer has a social media profile when they don’t. If the child asks why they aren’t allowed to have a profile, “because I said so” will not suffice as an answer. Instead, the parent should always fall back on facts. In the case of social media restrictions, following age requirement guidelines can act as an excellent resource for fact-driven guidance.
For example, the social media outlet TikTok requires all users to be of a specific age. Any website that collects data from users is required by United States federal law to stop a person under the age of thirteen from signing up unless the parent is notified and gives consent. This law was established with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
3. Stay Up to Date
The number of social media platforms available to users is increasing. Parents who stay up to date with the most followed social media sites will have insight into which platforms their child might be using or want to use. For instance, some of the most popular social media platforms include Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Kik, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Reddit, and Tumblr. There are also apps that kids use to conceal the use of other apps labeled off-limits. Parents should be familiar with those applications to be on the lookout for any secret online activity a child is hiding.
4. Utilize Privacy Settings
When a child is of age to have a social media account, parents should take on the responsibility of highlighting the importance of utilizing privacy settings. To avoid dealing with the online dangers that a public account can bring, kids should set all their account information to the most private and secure settings.
About Paulette Chaffee
Paulette Chaffee is a teacher, speech therapist, and attorney deeply involved in the Fullerton community. As an educator and member of various non-profit boards, her focus has always been on providing children with the highest quality education. Ms. Chaffee holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Redlands, a California Lifetime Teaching Credential, and is admitted to the California Bar.