A recent study has found that there are 23.5 million Snapchat users and 14.5 million Instagram users under the age of 11. The majority of social media sites have a requirement that users must be 13 years of age and many say they need permission from a parent if they are under 18. These restrictions have been put in place because, as you probably know, social media can expose users to unwanted, mature content. It also protects young children from potentially interacting with strangers. But how easy is it for kids to work around this restriction and lie about their age? Extremely.
Unfortunately, we can’t tell you ‘the perfect age’ when it comes to allowing your child to be on social media, that’s going to be up to you. Do they need to wait until they are 13? Are you comfortable with them being one of the millions on social media that are under the age of 11? As a parent, you can do your part by discussing with your child their intentions for being online and ensuring that they have an understanding of how to safely navigate.
This includes preparing them for the possibility of encountering online predators, pornography, violence, hate speech, cyberbullies or any other content you may be concerned about. You knew these conversations would happen someday, and because of social media, that day may have come sooner than you expected.
Cyber Dive was created to help parents feel more connected to their children in this digital age. We know how important social media has become and how great it can be. To a child, being the only friend without an Instagram or Snapchat account can feel like the end of the world. They use these platforms to express shared experiences, make each other laugh, stay up to date with the latest celebrity gossip and participate in the hottest trends. We think they should be able to engage in all of these activities. However, we also want you to feel educated on how to handle the not-so-fun parts of being online, as well.
Implementing a monitoring tool can initiate some tough conversations but teaching your children how to safely navigate social media is what we're all about! We encourage you to figure out what works best for your family and prepare your kids before they enter the online world. This starts by educating yourself, as a parent, on what is happening online and how kids are using these popular platforms. As new platforms frequently present themselves, it’s beneficial to fully understand them prior to your child making an account. For example, if your child is interested in making a TikTok, Cyber Dive’s guide can serve as a resource when researching all of your questions and concerns.
When you’re ready to talk with your child about making social media accounts, here are a few questions to consider asking…
Understanding why your child wants to be on social media can be a huge help in setting these initial digital boundaries and forming healthy online habits. This conversation can help them establish their intention and mindset when using social media.
Once you’ve made a decision to let your child make their own social media accounts, you can begin discussing privacy settings. Having a “private” account means different things for different social media platforms. A “private” Instagram still shows the child’s profile photo, username, bio, follower/following count and the number of posts they have made to anyone that comes across their account. Instagram users can create “friends only” stories where only a select group can view their story posts.
A “private” Snapchat account just means your child will have to accept all friend requests they receive. However, these Snapchat friend requests cannot be filtered and can come from anyone. The only thing you can control in regard to adding friends is if your account will show up in “Quick Add”. “Quick Add” is usually friend recommendations based on people you are already friends with or have as contacts in your phone. Within Snapchat, you can also manage which friends can view your stories and see your location.
TikTok is similar to Instagram when it comes to having a “private” account. However, if your child is wanting to go viral on TikTok, they will probably push for a public account. If you’re wanting to dive deep into TikTok, our guide will teach you everything you need to know from popular trends to cybersecurity insight.
Before your child decides to make any social media account, keep in mind what you feel comfortable having their username and bio be. Do you want it to be their first and last name? Do you feel better having it exclude any personal information? How descriptive is their bio? For most platforms, these usernames and bios can be changed as often as you would like. However, it is important to keep these things in mind as they begin creating their digital footprint.
Next, it is important to discuss what to do if they come across inappropriate content or find themselves potentially dangerous situations. Every family and parent will approach this conversation differently because you, as a parent, can decide what you feel your child is ready for and what may be inappropriate. We are not here to tell you what your child can and can’t do online or what type of content they need to stay away from.
At Cyber Dive, we believe in providing you all the necessary information in a nonjudgemental way so that you have the freedom to parent however you see fit. This makes it so that all parenting styles, belief systems and expectations can benefit from using our monitoring service. Taking the time to set these clear expectations will guide your child as they develop healthy online social skills.
Jumping into social media can be thrilling, overwhelming and terrifying all at the same time, for both you and your child. We know the decision to let your child online is a tough one. But we also know that social media isn’t going anywhere. Setting these expectations to better prepare your child will show them that you care about their safety and can also empathize with their burning desire to join the social media world. As a parent, it is your responsibility to adapt in a way that will keep your child safe and raise them to be responsible both on and offline. We encourage you to consider all of these factors when deciding if your child is ready for social media.