If your teen or tween child were to say to you that they were on TikTok or Kik or Tinder, would you know what they were talking about? Would you as a parent know whether what they were doing was safe? I’m lucky in that when my children started getting an online presence, there wasn’t much social media for them to get into. They had to use the family PC, which was in the family room so that my wife and I could watch their every move. With today’s tablets and smart phones, it’s my grandchildren that I worry about. Your child can be on many different social media sites without your knowledge and certainly not when you are watching. In this blog post, we will give you resources to know what is out there and what you need to know to help you guide your children through the social media minefield of criminals, child predators, cyberbullies, and more.
Let’s start with learning what apps are out there and are popular with today’s teens. Here a few links to some good websites that can give you some guidance to your child’s online activity.
Now that we know what is out there and what is popular right now (which may not be the case next week, month or year), what can you do as a parent to help avoid the pitfalls that these social media sites present to you children?
Most experts agree that communication is the key, and knowledge is power. Get to know the social media sites that your kids are using. Set up an account, cruise around the site, and educate yourself on what each offers and how kids are using it. Be familiar with sites’ age restrictions and know that kids can easily get around them. If you have a child under the age of 13, check the browser history and all apps on their device. If you see something like Facebook listed, assume your child has created an account. Talk to them about why the age requirement exists and how it might be a good idea for them to hold off on joining.
Talk to your children and try to keep an open line of communication. Let them know it is okay for them to talk to you about whatever is going on. Since many of the social media apps allow users to post anonymously, child predators and cyberbullies flourish in those environments. It may be hard for you as a parent to have these types of conversation (no parent wants to have adult-type conversations with their children even if your children are adults!), but if your child is armed with the knowledge that a trusted caregiver has their back, and they can trust you to help and not lecture them about a problem, that is something very powerful. The most important thing is to be proactive in your child’s online activities, not reactive.
This site not only list seven apps that are bad for children, but also gives some great advice on how to be involved.
Can I monitor what my child is doing online? How about an app for me to watch them? Yes, there are also apps available to you as a parent to help you monitor your child’s devices.
Surely there must be some apps out there that my child can be on without fearing the worst for them, right? Yes, there is, and here are a few websites that tell you about the good apps out there.
Yes, social media can be scary, but hopefully you, with the information we’ve put forward here, are better equipped to help guide your children successfully through the social media minefield and keep them safe.