Social Media Safety for Kids: Complete Parents’ Guide

By Julia Newman 15 days ago, Photography Tips

I have two children and work in the cybersecurity field, so ensuring social media safety for kids, especially on such social media platforms as TikTok, Instagram, or Snapchat, which are extremely popular nowadays and heavily used by my older daughter, is my priority.

Virtual interactions are common today, so it is extremely important to protect children when they are browsing the web, which is full of potential threats. Check my handy guide to discover practical tips and useful strategies the parents can take advantage of to create a safe and responsible web environment for their little ones.

Communicate with Your Kids

Regular conversations with kids about the digital world are one of the most important methods to make certain that they know how to behave on the web. Tell children how they can avoid strangers, protect their personal data, and general safety rules when being online.

"I mean, parents shouldn't be overprotective and overreactive about it, but more like just having dialogues with us and helping us understand, so we don't get caught up by the digital world." - Emily, my daughter

In this guide, I provided some basic tips to help parents communicate with their children about social media networking more effectively.

Educate Yourself

Understanding the social media landscape that my children deal with every day has been a priority for me. I’ve spent much time investigating the applications and websites they are interested in by reading app reviews and cyber security blogs, inspecting age restrictions, scrutinizing the fine print, etc.

Knowing the platforms my kids visit, I can vividly describe the complexities they might face when spending time on social media and be several steps ahead.

6 Platforms Parents Should Know About

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On this platform, users post videos with music, dances, challenges, and pranks.

Spending too much time on TikTok is bad for children, as uncontrollable scrolling through videos consumes much time.

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This platform is extremely popular among teenagers. There they publish photos, videos, and stories to share with friends and relatives. You must notify children about the potential risks of revealing personal data and posting pics that could compromise their privacy.

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“Snaps” are characteristic features of this casual communication application. These are photos and clips that vanish from the platform after a set time. However, your kids should know that it is possible to save and replay even disappearing messages.

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Although YouTube is rather a streaming platform than a social media network, children heavily use it to watch videos, follow creators, and interact with the communities. The parents’ task is to limit the time, children are allowed to spend on the platform. It is important to install content filters (or YouTube Kids) to block inappropriate content.

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This platform was designed for gamers but children often use it as a private channel for chatting and hanging out with their mates. To help children avoid unwanted contact, parents should review privacy settings and explain safety measures.

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Although users of this platform are usually older, many teenagers like it because of the ability to follow celebrities and participate in trending topics. Kids should know that they must respect safety boundaries and etiquette as the effects of social media on children are huge.

Get a Head Start

When my daughter tells me that she wants to subscribe to a new social media platform, I create my own account there. By doing so, I get the ability to discover this new world along with my children, getting acquainted with its features and functionalities. Although it may seem a bit proactive, such an approach lets me define the potential risks and create clear guidelines for their behavior on the web.

"This lets your kid be a specialist, as they most likely know better how things are going there. Are you not a user of TikTok or Snapchat? Ask your children about them and discover all the meaningful details in a flash." - Children’s Hospital Colorado adolescent medicine specialist Amy Sass, MD

Teach Responsible Posting

The permanence of the online presence is a frequent theme of my conversations with kids. I provide them with real stories and examples of how each publication, comment, and like and share contributes to their digital footprint.

I highlight the consequences that online actions may have in the long run. In such a way, I promote a sense of responsibility when browsing the web and engaging with social media.

Lately, Emily told me about a clip she was eager to publish on TikTok. She created a video to join a challenge where participants tried to mimic a dance. After watching the video together, I made sure that its content could be safely shared and did not contradict our family values. We considered every gesture, word, or theme that could be misunderstood.

After discussing all these details, Emily made certain that by posting a video she would not do anything wrong. We were also going to check the comments and reactions together, so she would feel strong support during the whole challenge.

Emphasize Privacy

The importance of protecting children’s privacy on the web is hard to underestimate. I’ve taught them that they should always keep their personal data like their second names, birthdates, and school details in absolute safety.

I’ve also described that oversharing and not maintaining boundaries online usually leads to identity theft and other negative consequences making social media bad for kids.

Avoid Excessive “Sharenting”

social media safety for kids sharenting

Of course, every parent knows that sharing their child’s milestones with their followers base on the network is very exciting. However, caution must not be neglected, as even you can fall into the trap of “Sharenting”, which is actually overposting about your children online, especially if we’re talking about kids under 10-12 who can’t tell if they like it or not.

Secure Your Privacy Settings

Do not be lazy to review and adjust the privacy settings on my social media accounts. Although this is not a complete solution to the problem, this is an important step to protect both my child and myself from the attention we do not want.

Consider Child's Perspective

Before publishing something on a social media platform, I analyze it and try to foresee how my kid will react to this post. Would they not be against sharing this moment? In such a way, I can be sure that my children’s privacy and dignity are maintained.

Utilize Secure Platforms

Apple's shared albums, Google Photos (which both offer encryption), and dedicated family apps like Footprint helped me protect my child's privacy. On these platforms, users can share their precious moments with their nearest and dearest safely and privately without dealing with unnecessary risks.

Monitor Your Kids’ Accounts

By applying these simple security measures, I can easily track my child’s activities on the web and make certain that they are safe and feel well when being online.

Enforcing Age Requirements

social media safety for kids age

Such parental control software as Qustodio or Net Nanny help me check the age requirements set by most social media apps and choose the allowed ones. Although the temptation to neglect these restrictions is quite strong, sticking to them is probably the only way to make sure that my kid can access only useful and age-appropriate content and communications online.

Minimum age for popular social media:

  • Instagram – 13 years
  • WhatsApp – 16 years
  • Snapchat – 13 years
  • Twitter – 13 years
  • Facebook – 13 years
  • TikTok – 13 years

Set App Installation Permissions

I took my child’s gadget and I adjusted the settings there to require my allowance before installing any new application. This provides me with overall control over the types of apps my kid is going to download and makes sure that they are secure and suitable.

In addition, it is advisable to protect a child’s device with such parent control app as Bark or OurPact.

Understand Online Dialect

Children often interact with their peers in their own language when meeting online. To better understand how my kid communicates digitally, I’ve tried my best to learn this special dialect and get to know all the recent trends. This fosters effective communication with my kid and eliminates the issues that may arise during online interactions.

Teach Social Media Safety

These safety measures help me make certain that my child navigates social media pages responsibly and does not expose sensitive data to a third party.

Know Your Network

I always emphasize to my child the importance of being cautious about adding people they don't know in real life on social media. I advise them never to approve friend requests from strangers and to avoid meeting anyone they've only interacted with online.

To make social media for kids safer, it is important to warn children about adding suspicious people to their contacts on social media. I recommend them not to consider friend requests from unknown people, as well as not to meet a person they’ve only interacted with online in real life.

"Using social media is a really enjoyable pastime, but sometimes I feel anxious when a stranger wants to interact with me" - Ann, Emily’s classmate

Beware of Imposters

Catfishing is one of the growing problems online. To deal with it, I devote some time to learning about catfishing and cybertalking and then share the achieved knowledge with my children. I told them about how to recognize fake profiles or behave when an individual asks for intimate photos or money.

My son Alex got a friend request on Instagram from a stranger, and he hesitated about whether this profile was trustworthy and belonged to a real person. Together, we analyzed the account and discovered that there was no personal info like full name, location, or interests. Although the page contained several publications, the list of followers and interactions was quite short – the red flag that the account was fake.

Moreover, Alex did not know the person who invited him to start a dialogue. After this accident, we discussed the importance of confirming friend requests only from friends and acquaintances. In the end, he decided to cancel the request and complain about this account for further investigation.

Identify Cyberbullying

My task as a parent is to explain to a child that feeling uncomfortable or being threatened by someone on the web is not acceptable. I told my child about different strategies to counteract cyberbullying like blocking the person, reporting this issue to the platform’s developers, or asking an adult for help.

According to UNICEF data, more than 70% of young people aged 15 to 24 run into such problems as violence or cyberbullying.

Avoid Questionnaires and Contests

Although online quizzes and giveaways do not seem to be harmful, they often appear to be phishing scams created to steal your personal data. I explain to my child the dangers of revealing personal info on the web and tell them not to engage with such offers unless they are sure of their legitimacy.

Guard Your Location

I’m concerned about the risks of sharing the precise location info on social media platforms. To avoid hazardous situations, I turn location services on my kid’s gadget, making sure that no other person can identify the whereabouts of my child without permission.

surfshark one logoIf you want to hide the location of your kid’s device, try out Surfshark One. Its privacy tool for a secure connection between your device and the web is especially beneficial. It encrypts your personal info protecting it from thieves.

Watch out for Third-Party Apps

I also explain to my kids the risks that they might face when working with third-party applications within social media platforms. My recommendation to them is to research the privacy policies of these tools and only then decide whether they are reliable and trustworthy.

Set Ground Rules

Of course, it is difficult to track my child’s social media activity, especially considering the fact they are registered on different platforms. To make certain that they browse the web safely and avoid the parenting problems associated with browsing the web and the negative effects of social media on children, I created a list of ground rules.

Define common areas for device use

I make it a rule to use a computer in some specific areas of our home like the living room or kitchen. Also, there should be always some specific places where a kid can use a tablet or cellphone. In such a way, I can monitor my child’s digital behavior preventing them from accessing suspicious sites or watching inappropriate content when I am at home.

Reducing children’s screen time

My child is allowed to browse the web for a specific time every day, but there is extra time for doing homework. Children often overuse social media pages, so making sure that they do not spend too much time online is extremely important.

"Screens make your brain think that it is a day, preventing a body from falling asleep." - pediatric pulmonologist and sleep specialist Stephen Hawkins, MD

Ask for access to social media accounts

If a kid is going to create an account on some social media platform, I ask them to reveal the account credentials. Having access to their pages allows me to check whether their interactions and overall behavior are safe and appropriate.

Consider compromises for older teens

Of course, teenagers won’t be glad to provide their parents full access to their profiles, so consider suggesting a compromise. For example, they can add a parent as a friend or follower on their social media pages, letting an adult monitor the activities from a distance.

Visit age-appropriate sites

Sticking to age-appropriate sites is pivotal to ensure social media safety for kids. For example, such platforms as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram enforce age requirements and additional security settings for children. My task is to check the correctness of the birth year provided by a kid and the privacy settings on their profile regularly.