Keeping Kids Safe on Social Media

I consider myself to be a forward-thinking parent when it comes to social media, but I am also one of the most protective. Let’s explore three common social media sites and how you can protect kids that are using them.

1. Instagram is a photo-editing app that allows users to take, edit and share photos using fun retro filters. It requires your child to be at least 13 years old, and underage users can be reported and removed

If your child is old enough and using Instagram, the most important thing you can do is make sure the account is set to private. It automatically defaults to public, which means that anyone can see your child’s photos. Once the account is set to private, users must send a follower request to begin viewing your child’s photos.

Make sure your child only becomes friends with people they know and never accepts requests from people they don’t without talking to you first. If your child accidentally allows someone access, they can block without the user ever knowing it occurred. Learn more about how to block Instagram users.

As a general rule of thumb, be sure to turn off location settings so your child’s location is never known, and monitor the account, especially with Instagram Direct, where images can be shared privately with your child.

2. Snapchat is a mobile app that allows users to capture videos and pictures that self-destruct a few seconds after the recipient views them. When users send messages, they get to decide the length of time the message will be active and available to view (between one and 10 seconds).

Snapchat is not intended for children under the age of 13, although it does offer a special SnapKidz app for underage users. If your child enters their birthday while under the age of 13, they’ll automatically be redirected to download SnapKidz. With this app, the user can take videos and photos to which they can add captions and drawings and then save them to their own device. They are not, however, able to add friends or send and receive any messages.

If your child is over the age of 13, they can set up an account and begin sending and receiving messages. Once again, this account defaults to everyone being able to send your child images and video, so be sure to change the setting to “friends only” in the settings menu.

The main issue with this app is that kids believe the image disappears and can never be seen again, when in fact it can be captured in a screenshot or photographed using another camera or device. Make sure your child understands that these images do not, in fact, necessarily disappear.

If your teen is using this app, it is important to talk with them about issues like sexting, the laws prohibiting sexually explicit images of minors being shared and the consequences of these actions on their life.

3. Twitter is a social network that allows users to type brief, 140-character messages to the world. The minimum age requirement to use Twitter is also 13.

On this public forum, whatever your child types can be broadcasted to the world, and these broadcasts do not have a private function unless your child is direct messaging someone through Twitter. This means whatever is communicated can be retweeted and shared with others unless they protect their tweets.

Be sure to talk to your child about how Twitter is truly a public arena and take time to follow and monitor their tweets.

If your child begins receiving unwanted tweets from another user, make sure they block the user and end the communication. Learn more about blocking Twitter users.

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