Social media use continues to increase across all age groups. It is thought that 97% of all 13-17-year-olds are active on at least one form of social media, spending 75% of their free time on it (Pew Research, 2015).
For parents and caregivers, this is just one more thing for them to worry about and monitor. It can be difficult to keep up to date with the newest developments and changes to platforms, especially if a parent is not particularly tech-savvy, to begin with.
Thankfully, there are apps out there, such as the Facebook spy app, which can help you to monitor and keep track of what your teen is doing online. But what else can you do to protect your teenagers online?
Talk to them
Education is always one of the best ways to keep your child or children safe, so talk to them about how to use social media and the internet safely. Keep conversations open and informal – the more relaxed you are when talking, the more likely they are to approach you if there is an issue.
Talk to them about the importance of not giving out personal information, not accepting requests off anyone they don’t know, and the etiquette of the internet. For some, typing in upper case letters is a sign of aggression and can cause problems. If they know how to use it appropriately, there is much less likely to be a problem.
Don’t let them join until they are old enough
There is an age requirement on almost all social media platforms – most of them are 13. This is there to keep your children safe, and if you break the guidelines, they can permanently delete the account, meaning you lose all of the photos and information stored to it and will be prevented from reopening one in the future.
We all know how addictive social media can be. You pick up your phone for a two-minute scroll through, and before you know it, an hour has passed.
Most teenagers, given the opportunity, will spend all day on their phones. We already know the damage it can do to teenagers’ sleep, so putting time limits on how much they can use their phones is more than reasonable.
Make sure their profiles are set to private – and check regularly
When setting up social media profiles for your children, ensure that the privacy settings are as tight as possible. Consider how much information is being shared – address, full name, the school they attend, and date of birth – and who can see what.
For example, on Facebook, you can make sure that friends only see posts and information. However, other settings allow friends of friends to see it too. Make sure you are comfortable with what others can see, and periodically check that they haven’t been changed.
Discuss cyberbullying and harassment
Sadly, even the best-behaved of teenagers can get caught up in peer pressure and irresponsible online behavior. What might start as harmless banter and joking can turn sinister and upsetting very quickly.
Make sure your teenagers realize the seriousness of cyberbullying and harassment and the consequences of being involved in it. Navigating social media is difficult at the best of times for an experienced internet user – it can be even more tricky for teenagers and children.
Teaching them good online habits and behavior, and monitoring their usage from the very beginning will set them up for responsible use for life.