It doesn’t matter where we are. Target, the grocery store, waiting at the Dr.’s office. My 10-year-old daughter wants to make TikToks. She likes to make videos of her dances and her slime collection. But her TikTok and mine are very different. Hers is locked up tightly. She can’t post anything herself, view anyone else’s videos but those on her friend list, and no one can search for her. I agreed to let her have an account but only one that was connected to my own thru Family Safe Mode. Nothing with explicit content is shown to her this way and no one can message her.
There is no way I would allow her access to Tiktok on her own. TikTok, while a fun app, is full of inappropriate content. While their community guidelines do not permit sexually explicit content, videos that contain this are still posted and viewed every day. While my daughter's account should be locked up tightly, I still check it often to make sure nothing unwanted has found a way in.
Phones and iPads are in our kids’ hands all the time now. When we hand our children an electronic device, we are handing them everything in the outside world: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Unfortunately, the bad outweighs the good with kids and social media. As parents, we must stay on top of what our kids are watching and who they are talking to on their devices. While there is some educational content out there, a few clicks in the wrong direction, and our children are exposed to more than what we want them to be.
Benefits for Kids and Social Media:
Social media is the perfect place to maintain friendships outside of school and after-school activities. Calling friends is no longer how friendships are cultivated. Kids now communicate with each other and with family by texting and messaging through apps. Kids can connect with people their age on a global scale through social media as well. While we had pen pals when we were growing up, kids now can communicate with kids anywhere in the world in an instant.
Social media is also the perfect place to find educational resources, conduct research, and cultivate any creative skills that your child has. My children like to watch YouTube videos of how to draw and how to do different things that my husband and I are unable to show them ourselves.
Risks for Kids and Social Media:
While there are some benefits to giving kids access to social media, there are far more risks involved. Child sex trafficking and luring are the biggest. Children are vulnerable and curious. They will believe a lot that strangers tell them if they are hearing what they want to hear. This can lead to IRL encounters with our children.
Bullying online is another risk factor for kids. We live in an age where most kids have access to the Internet and will hide behind the screen to harass other kids. As most know, this is an issue that stays with people long into adulthood. Teaching kids about online bullying as soon as you can is important.
Cyberbullying is currently a massive issue that takes place on social media platforms. Staying on top of your child’s social media accounts and monitoring what is taking place in their exchanges with others can decrease the likelihood of this taking place.
How to Keep Your Kids Safe:
There are various ways to keep as much bad entering your home via social media. Getting yourself familiar with the apps as a parent is the first step. Turning a blind eye to what your children are watching is never the answer. Investigate and using the privacy settings and parental monitoring of the apps that your child is using is another good idea.
Consistently monitoring your children’s social media accounts and keeping their accounts as private as you can is another way to keep your child safe from unwanted users.
Watching what they are posting, not allowing them access to accept friend requests from people they do not know and having frequent conversations about social media usage are also good ways to keep your children safe.
Resources for Parents About Kids and Social Media:
Misty Roussa is a Louisiana native who lives with her husband and two children. She has contributed to Red Stick Mom, The CF Foundation, and Cystic-Fibrosis.com. When she isn't writing, you can find her reading, listening to podcasts, or trying to cook something her family will enjoy.