There’s so much to consider with social media, such as how marketers may be using data they’re collecting on your child and how to create a social media plan for your family. It’s also important to think about protecting your child’s privacy online.
Avoid setting up an account for a child younger than 13. Most social media sites require children to be over 13 per the 1989 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). However, because it’s just a checkbox, don’t rely on the site to prevent kids from signing up. If they are using your account instead, check your privacy too.
Here are some more tips that work across many platforms.
✓ Avoid detailed, public profiles
Limit the amount of personal information in your child’s profile. Even if a profile has a spot to include details like hometown, favorite websites, bio or contact information, consider leaving that information blank.
Restrict who can see the profile or set it to private – if everyone can find a profile, it’s easier for dangerous people to reach out pretending to be a friend.
✓ Avoid posting detailed, public photos
Keep in mind that when you or others post photos of children with the logo of the school they attend or at an easily identifiable sports game, it makes it possible for strangers to quickly identify what school a child attends.
You wouldn’t post your home address, so why would you post the school where your child spends most of their day?
✓ Limit connections
See who can connect and follow your child and limit those connections to people your child knows in real life. Teach your child how to recognize people that they know and understand that people can pretend to be someone else on social media. Often you can restrict who sees posts, and who follows an account. Many platforms let you limit who can find your profile and who can send you a friend or follow request.
Find out how to block users before there’s a problem or issue.
✓ Control chat
Check out the messaging feature. Who can send a private message to your child? Restrict these private messages to just connections, or turn off messaging entirely, if the platform allows.
✓ Curate content
Explore the social media feed. How easy is it to find concerning content? How do you block and report problematic content or channels? Some social media sites, like TikTok, support content restrictions. You can also consider alternative kid-friendly platforms like YouTube Kids, but be aware that inappropriate content can still appear.
✓ Restrict advertising
Review how data are shared with third parties. Social media platforms may share location, profile and activity data with marketers. As a family, consider how much data you are comfortable with sharing. Limit to the extent allowed.
✓ Check device settings too
Find out about the parental controls on the device your child uses to access social media. Often, you can restrict access to certain sites and set time limits. Keep in mind that kids can find ways to get around controls – your best protection is a strong relationship with your child. One way to build that relationship is through conversations.
- Snapchat family controls: https://www.snap.com/en-US/safety-and-impact/post/family-center
- Instagram family controls: https://familycenter.instagram.com/
- TikTok Guardian’s Guide: https://www.tiktok.com/safety/en/guardians-guide/
- An Overview of Parental Controls: https://www.internetmatters.org/parental-controls/social-media/