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Like. Share. Comment. Retweet. (And now, save!) Over the past few years, these words have become engrained in our day to day lives, thanks to the overwhelming power of social media. There’s a lot of good that’s come out of it — the ability to keep up with loved ones, share hilarious memes, and even gain a better understanding of what’s going on in the world around us.
But unfortunately, there’s a dark side too — like the chance that your child’s information could be compromised. Information such as your name, date of birth, hometown, interests, and other personal details have the potential to be collected and used by opportunists with less than good intentions.
There are many ways to enjoy social media safely — so don’t deactivate anything just yet. We’ll walk you through how — keep reading to learn more!
What’s so dangerous about social media?
The dangers of social media vary — from more internal, personal issues like low self-esteem, to situations like cyberbullying and identity theft. Specifically, social media can lead to:
Anxiety. This study determined that more social media use was linked to greater odds of having an anxiety disorder.
Depression and low self-esteem. Social media may promote negative thoughts such as inadequacy about your life or appearance.
Addiction to social media. With most platforms operating using a continuous scroll, the urge to refresh and keep up is constant — and real. Over 40% of online users aged 18 to 22 report feeling addicted to social media.
Interference with important obligations (like schoolwork). Because checking social media, messaging friends, and taking selfies are much more interesting than completing a lab report. (So the kids say.)
Cyberbullying. Sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else.
Identity theft. Not only are they posting status updates of where they are and what they are doing, but when your child (or anyone) signs up for a social media account, in most cases, your name, current city, interests, and workplace are on full display for hackers to steal.
This isn’t to steer you away from the fun and positive aspects of social media — like connecting with friends, sharing about community resources for those in need, and showcasing creativity and new ideas. However, these are noted just to make you aware of the dangers if not used cautiously.
How can you keep your children safe using social media?
Even though you can’t protect your children from everything forever, establishing a strong foundation of safe online habits is the best possible way to ensure they know how to protect themselves for years to come. Because let’s face it — we live in a digital age, and if your child hasn’t asked to create a social media profile yet, there’s a good chance they will at some point. Here are some top tips to navigating this new world with your child.
1. Educate yourself.
It’s important to familiarize yourself with what sites are out there, what kind of information is shared, and if you believe it’s appropriate for your child. Some of the most popular sites include Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube, to name a few.
2. Regularly check your child’s privacy settings.
This is a good practice no matter your age — social media sites continuously add and change security controls, but oftentimes they have to be manually updated. To get you started, consider checking these settings:
Who can see your past and future posts.
If you want to review anything you’re tagged in before it posts.
Setting up two-factor authentication, which is an additional layer of security added to your account to prevent someone from logging in if they have your password. The extra security measure requires you to use a randomized code sent via text, email, or other method of your choosing when logging in to your social media account.
If you’d like your profile to be private or public. (We suggest private.)
3. Don’t allow them to post photos or videos that jeopardize their safety.
The main purpose of social media is to share — and most people do with the best of intentions. But it’s easy for others to take things the wrong way or out of context, which could have lasting consequences.
4. Never allow them to accept friend requests from people they don’t personally know.
There are a lot of people who use social media for more harm than good. Only accept friend requests from people you personally know, such as friends and family.
5. Communication is key.
(Cheesy, but true.) You can’t monitor your child’s social media activity at all hours of the day, but you can maintain a strong line of communication, a set of rules, and guidelines for their social media use. Maybe this means only 30 minutes per day of scroll time, or you’d like for them to inform you when they receive messages or friend requests from strangers. It all depends on your comfort level and your child — there isn’t one right or wrong way to navigate this.
6. “Friend” them on social media.
One of the easiest ways to proactively monitor your child’s social media is to friend them (link your account to theirs by confirming that you know each other) on it. While you won’t be able to see their private messages, search history, or friend requests, you will be able to see the pages they like, people they follow, and what they post.
7. Use monitoring software or lock certain settings.
Lock certain settings on your family computer using monitoring software like Net Nanny or Surfie. This allows you to keep your child off social media websites you don’t approve of, and block chats or monitor content.
What age should children be allowed on social media?
If you’re curious, the average child gets their first smartphone by age 10.3, and opens their first social media account by age 11.4 (parental consent or not). By age 12, 50% of children use at least one social media platform — and many lie about their age.
That’s because there are some legal limitations to be aware of. For example, age 13 is the minimum age for Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok.
If you’re looking for a second opinion, cyber experts recommend:
Facebook: 13+, to comply with the legal minimum age.
Instagram: 13-16+, because of the amount of inappropriate content available.
Snapchat: 16+, due to the security risks and geotagging issues.
But again, when it comes to making important decisions for your children, the answer ultimately is up to you. There is no right or wrong age to allow children to have smartphones, tablets, or social media profiles. By maintaining open and constant communication with your child, they can learn the power of autonomy and smart decision-making at a young age — or whatever age you believe is appropriate.
How to teach your child to stay safe online
Instilling safe habits in your child now — no matter their age — will set them up for success in their digital futures. Here are a few suggestions to tell them:
Treat the “about me” fields as optional.
Know the people you friend.
Always log out when you’re done.
Create a strong, private password. (And use different passwords for each of your accounts.)
Be sure you know how to report inappropriate or offensive posts, block someone, and keep information private.
Click links with caution. Social media accounts are regularly hacked, so make sure it’s really coming from your best friend trying to share the latest viral video with you before you click.
Set up two-factor authentication or security answers.
Don’t reveal sensitive personal information like your phone number, address, or financial information.
Be mindful of geotagging and your location settings, especially when posting in real time.
What to know before posting a photo of your kids on social media
If you’re a parent, there’s a good chance your child has taken up a lot of space on your social media feed. From snippets of your afternoon in the park to those classic first day of school pictures, we understand that sometimes you just can’t resist. Plus, it’s an easy way to keep your extended family in the loop — because we’re sure your great aunt gets serious joy from your updates.
This is lovingly referred to as “sharenting,” and while the ever-growing popularity of using your social media profile as a digital scrapbook seems like a harmless idea, there are some things you should know before hitting “post.”
You could leave an embarrassing (and permanent) trail. Your toddler throwing a tantrum or misbehaving might lead to a lot of laughs, but there’s a chance it could be seen down the line — from high school bullies to college admissions officers and future employers.
Are you what you teach? If you’re constantly telling your children about the risks of oversharing on social media and continue to post throughout the day, you might be giving them mixed messages. If you’re guilty of this, don’t sweat it — start by setting the example you’d want your children to follow.
Be mindful of the personal information you’re giving away. From birth announcements to your child’s school logo on a sweatshirt, you could be giving away the puzzle-piecing information hackers need to steal your child’s identity. (Even if your photo is on a private profile, you still want to be careful.)
Don’t become trackable. Be wary of geotagging and avoid tagging the locations of places you and your children frequent — especially their school, and even more so in real-time.
Check on your privacy settings, too. Don’t forget that most (if not all) of these online safety tips should be considered for adults as well. Make sure you’re up to date on your settings to keep your kids (and you) protected.
How can an identity protection plan protect your child online?
Though you might think that young children are relatively safe from identity theft because they aren’t regularly using credit cards, posting on social media, and filling out important paperwork, they are actually vulnerable targets for identity theft.
This is because children are often a blank slate for hackers to apply for credit, take out loans, and do other fraudulent activities in their name without anyone noticing — until that child goes to apply for their first credit card or take out their first loan. But between all that family life brings, it’s hard to have eyes everywhere at once — which is exactly how an identity protection plan can help.
In partnership with Experian®, Kasasa Care offers three tiers of identity protection — featuring all-in-one credit, identity, and restoration services, and monitoring over 600,000 pages and millions of data points (including on the dark web). So you can rest assured that your information, well, stays yours. Plus, with three levels of coverage, you have the option to get a plan that best fits you and your family.
And for those with families, we recommend Kasasa Protect Premium — it includes internet surveillance, Social Security trace monitoring, and full-service restoration services for you and your children. Plus, up to $1 million in identity theft insurance in case your information isn’t where it should be. Now that’s what we like to call your top defense for the digital age.
Social media — specifically for children and teens — can’t seem to be avoided these days. But it can be a wonderful tool for social connection and positive interaction. With a little caution, a lot of privacy settings, and the help of an identity protection plan, social media can be a fun and safe place — especially if you’re into dog memes. Happy sharing!