I got my first social media account when I was 13. I know, I was pretty young! I remember feeling so grown up as I drafted Facebook comments and scrolled through the endless onslaught of pictures and posts. I loved how social media connected me with friends and family in a way that I had never experienced before. Looking back, though, I question if I was really mature enough to safely maneuver the minefield of social media.
It’s no secret that social media isn’t the safest or most secure corner of the Internet—especially for children. Kids may see inappropriate material on social media, and platforms like Facebook and Instagram influence kids to compare their lives to those of friends. Comparison can be inspiring, but may also lead to diminished levels of self-confidence, increased anxiety, and a shorter attention span.That’s why smartphones from Troomi eliminate social media entirely.
Not everyone is able to avoid social media completely, though, and children and teens alike continue to sign up and scroll. In fact, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) states that over 90% of teens ages 13–17 use social media! This staggering stat reminds us that the captivating whirlpool of social media isn’t calming down anytime soon.
As adults (and social media veterans), it’s important that we teach kiddos how to stay safe on the Internet. That’s why we at Troomi put together this list of 13 ways you can help your little ones practice social media safety for kids. Check it out!
Thirteen Social Media Safety Tips for Kids
- Set your account to private. When your child gets their first social media account, they should immediately head to the privacy settings and switch their account to private. This ensures that only accepted followers can see their posts. When their account is public, any stranger from the Internet can explore their page and see what your child is up to. Practice stranger danger and make sure that privacy settings are up to snuff.
- Only add people that you know. If someone that your child doesn’t know requests to follow them on Facebook or Instagram, just say no! Even if they have mutual followers, unknown individuals being able to access your child’s social media profile is a big safety concern. It’s better to err on the side of caution and limit the profile to only people that your child knows in real life.
- Watch out for catfishing. I’m not talking about the actual fish. The Cambridge Dictionary defines catfishing as “the practice of pretending on social media to be someone different, in order to trick or attract another person.” Predators and bullies may create a fictional persona in an attempt to harm others. As always is the case with social media, it’s better to err on the side of caution and delete unknown followers.
- Don’t share your location. Sites like Facebook and Instagram give you the option to add a location to posts and photos. It’s fun to show off the cool spots you’ve visited, but unknown individuals and websites can use this location information to see where you’ve been. Kinda frightening, right? So go ahead and post that picture of your family trip to Yellowstone, but refrain from including any geolocation information in the post.
- Avoid using hashtags. Hashtags (known as the number sign or pound sign to us older folk) are a fun way to collect social media content about various topics. For example, Twitter users at a University of Utah football game may end their tweets with “#GoUtes!” It’s fun to hear people’s thoughts on events and topics, but like geolocation services, hashtags allow strangers to find your child’s account and read what they’re saying.
- Remember that content never really leaves the Internet. This is one of the most important social media safety rules: when you post something on the Internet, it’s there forever. Remind your kids to be cautious about what they post! Even if you delete a post, someone may have screenshotted it and saved it to their device. Furthermore, content deleted from social media sites like Instagram is stored in a “Recently Deleted” archive for 30 days, during which time the post can be recovered.
- Use parental controls (when needed). The majority of social media websites have a parental controls section that allows you to guide your child’s social media experience. Do some research and learn how to use the parental controls before your child gets an account. Some kids may not be happy about these limitations, so prepare to have an open conversation with them, and explain why parental controls are beneficial.
- Don’t answer questionnaires or online quizzes. Have you ever been scrolling through your Facebook feed and seen an ad that screams “Free IQ Test” or “Find Out What Animal You Are Now?” It’s tempting to click on those ads—especially for kids caught in the thrall of early self-discovery. However, these questionnaires and quizzes can actually be used to gain access to your accounts. Check out this Troomi blog post to learn more about how hackers can use your child’s quiz answers to commit identity theft.
- Don’t click on ads. Just as your children shouldn’t click on quizzes and questionnaires, ads should also be avoided. Clicking on an ad may instigate drive-by downloads. These are annoying (and often nefarious) pieces of code that attach themselves to your computer without your permission. They may introduce malware and viruses, so it’s better to avoid clicking on ads altogether.
- Create a social media time limit. Social media can be engaging and exciting—two characteristics that lead to it being an addicting and wasteful way to spend your time. Encourage your children to be mindful about their time on social media. If that fails, try creating a time limit for their social media apps. Most cell phones (including Troomi devices) allow you to set a flexible schedule for specific apps. Take advantage of this cool feature to protect your kids from the time suck of technology.
- Use complicated passwords. Your child’s password is the key to their social media account. Make sure they use a complicated, personalized password that they won’t forget to ensure that their account doesn’t get hacked. I recommend including at least one uppercase letter, a special symbol, and a number in the password. Then, tell them to share their password with you in case they forget!
- Remember that social media doesn’t reflect reality. It’s easy to compare our lives to others’ lives on social media stars as we scroll. When we see an influencer’s or friend’s post, we might think, “their life looks so colorful and exciting; why doesn’t my life look like that?” Remind your kids that social media often doesn’t reflect reality—what they’re seeing is a carefully curated moment. If your child falls into the trap of comparison, encourage them to step away from social media and rediscover what makes life exciting and important.
- Openly communicate with your kids about social media. Social media is an exciting and creative place, but it may introduce children to themes and topics that they shouldn’t have to think about. Make sure that you have open communication with your children. Remind them that if they run into anything scary or intimidating online, they can come to you for comfort and understanding. Tech can be scary, and the power of a parent’s comforting word is astronomical.
Eliminate Social Media With Troomi
At its best, social media is exciting and inspiring. At its worst, however, social networking sites can be mentally and emotionally dangerous. Kids are especially susceptible to the addictive and comparative qualities of social media. As such, the best way to practice social media safety for kids is to refrain from using it entirely.
It’s easy to avoid social media with a smartphone from Troomi Wireless. Our kid-friendly, parent-approved devices don’t support social media applications. This feature inspires kids to get off the phone and out exploring. After all, there’s nothing more valuable than real-world connections with friends and family!