As a parent, what can you do to protect your child from the potential dangers of social media? After all, while nearly all social networking sites allow users 13 years and older, it is not uncommon to discover children younger than 13 are active on social media.
In fact, 95% of all teens use YouTube, and two out of three teens use TikTok, according to Pew Research.
What’s the best way to monitor what’s happening when your child is online? Here are 5 ways you can keep dibs on your kids:
Use an app
Children are getting tablets and smartphones at a younger age more than ever. In addition, the pandemic accelerated the need for all school-age children to use the internet for schooling and schoolwork. This has made it particularly challenging for parents to monitor online behavior continuously.
Thankfully, there are several different monitoring apps available that parents can use to protect their children from the unsafe elements of the internet and social media and monitor their screen time.
One example is the top-ranked parental control app Bark. It’s a paid application that monitors texts, emails, YouTube streaming, and social media platforms for signs of unsafe online behavior such as cyberbullying, internet predators, depressive behavior, threats of violence, and so forth. Its content monitoring tech will send you email and text alerts when it detects harmful issues, allowing you to talk to your child to ensure they are okay and staying safe.
Bark offers two different packages: Bark Jr. ($5/month or $49/year), designed for families with young children, and Bark Premium ($14/month or $99/year), geared towards families with students of all ages. Each payment plan also comes with a 7-day free trial.
Link your accounts
Nearly half of all agents use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, and know from experience that managing multiple social media accounts can be time-consuming.
But did you know you can link your accounts to your kids?
For example, Google Family Link is a free tool that links your Google Account to your child’s account. This application allows parents to limit what apps their kid downloads and restrict their screen time. It also allows you to look through your child’s browsing activity on Google Chrome and track where your kid is if they are using their device outside the house. It can be used on up to six devices and only requires you and your child have a Google Account.
Facebook also allows parents to add family and friends with an existing Facebook account as friends for their child, using a Parent Dashboard. Parents can also create a Messenger Kid’s account for their child and connect to their child’s Messenger Kid’s account.
TikTok will automatically disable Direct Messages, disallow private accounts, restrict comments to friends or no one, and won’t allow videos to be remixed or downloaded for children 13-15 years of age. If you allow your child of age to use TikTok, be sure the correct birth year and date are entered because once an account is created with that date, the birth date cannot be changed.
Require password access to keep an account
If you are not monitoring your kid’s online behavior, you must be able to access their account information, especially with the abundance of cyberbullying. A recommended quid pro quo: if your child has online accounts, you will always need their current password.
Child safety experts recommend setting ground rules for your child, which includes always having the ability to access their online accounts, including email, text, chat, and social media.
A best practice is to sit down with your child and work with them to create their social media profile so you can set up their privacy and safety features to protect them from harmful behavior or content.
Review their history
Once you have access, you must keep track of your child’s online activity. Regularly, it would be best if you went through your child’s search and browsing history to ensure they are not being exposed to harmful web content or messages from others. Unmonitored internet behavior can lead to bad decisions.
All major web browsers offer a “History” option on the top menu, so it’s easy to do. Even smartphone browsers provide built-in history tracking. In addition, parental control apps can automate much of this process.
One history app – Famisafe – allows parents to track browser history in both regular and private mode. It also filters out suspicious websites, alerts you on websites your child visits, and comes with screen time controls to limit internet time or lock them out of using a browser. In addition, Famisafe provides Home plans for under $50 a year.
Restrict social use to a laptop or desktop: no apps on phones
If your child has a smartphone, they can easily access content you don’t want them to see. Instilling a house rule that only allows social media access on a laptop or desktop will give you control over what social media accounts your child can access. This means having a family rule that restricts the download of any social media app on their phone.
If all of this seems a little harsh, consider that Facebook removed over 36 million posts that encouraged suicide or self-injury last year alone. As a parent, the safest rule for your child’s online behavior and use of social media is to trust but verify.
If you need assistance monitoring your kid’s social media or downloading or setting up a parental control app, contact Tech Helpline, and one of our analysts will guide you through the process.