Children rapidly shift between social media networks these days. As soon as a new app comes out they are quick to adopt it, along with all of their friends. For parents trying to closely follow their child’s online social media activity this can be daunting. There is no easy way to monitor their child’s online life. However, according to a Pew Research Study, despite the tediousness of doing so, over 60% of parents of 13 to 17 year olds take a wide range of approaches to monitor their children’s online activity.
Children’s phones ought to be monitored for things like online bullying, sexting, oversharing, inappropriate content, and online predators, most of which occur on social media networks. While it is nearly impossible follow their social media around the clock, there are some ways you can effectively monitor your child’s online activity to address these concerns.
Usage Boundaries: Establish a trust between you and your child. The Family Online Safety Institute suggests parents and children sign a safety contract. This can be used to help establish ground rules and boundaries around social media use. This contract also features a note about penalties if the guidelines for proper social media use are not respected.
Profiles: Instead of creeping around your child on social media, set up a consistent profile with a picture and name (even if it’s a code name) so your child knows it is you. It is fine if you are anonymous to their friends since some children might not want their friends knowing that mom or dad are online with them too. As Common Sense Media notes, it is important that you use you profile wisely. Don’t interact with their friends, but check in as you see fit so you can have an honest conversation with your child if the need arises.
Passwords: Requiring children to hand over their passwords can be a thorny conversation. Dr. Laura Kastner noted to ParentMap that children are less likely to behave badly online if they know their parent might see it. Other parents disagree with this approach saying it is akin to listening to children’s phone conversations or snooping through their closets. They argue it is better to trust children to do the right thing until the trust is lost.
If you do get your child’s passwords, trust must be established that you won’t use them to sabotage their social media presence. However, having their passwords, this can be an excellent way to keep track of their online life. Login to their accounts regularly, notifying them when you do, and check for any red flags like “friends” you don’t know, or bullying words or phrases.
Usage at Home: Social media is accessible anytime, anywhere. When you are at home ask your child to only use it in family spaces. Children are less likely to behave inappropriately when their parents are sitting on the sofa next to them! Some parents take the time to go through social media profiles with their children together. This helps the parent understand what’s going on online and they can open up a conversation about safety if there is a concern.
Parental Control Apps: There are numerous apps that control which apps children are allowed but that isn’t enough to when it comes to monitoring what actually is taking place online. The reality is that harmful content, dangerous conversations, and risky behavior can occur in any app, and it is important to monitor children’s behavior while they are on their phone. Latch Mobile identifies images and language of concern like nudity, drugs and aggression across all apps.
While there is no clear answer as to how a child’s social media activity should be monitored, there is ample evidence that parents need to pay attention to it one way or another. Social media can pose a unique set of dangers to our children and we need to help them navigate it until they are old enough to handle it on their own.