Modern parenting is rife with issues and challenges that didn’t exist a mere 10 years ago. Right on top of that long list is social media use. The question is no longer “Should I let my child have their own social media accounts?” For better or worse, that is a battle already lost. Still, there are ways to monitor your child’s social media accounts.
Gone are the days when teens got their first cell phones or laptops as birthday or graduation gifts. Right now, gadgets — and with it, social media use — are very much a part of childhood. Our kids are growing up in a digital world that’s prone to over-sharing.
The more constructive questions to ask ourselves are “How can I teach my child smart and responsible social media habits?” and “How can I keep my children safe and protected in the age of social media?”
It’s usually the latter that keeps parents up at night. From cyberbullying, sexting, and viral videos, to the very real threat of online predators, it can be scary out there!
Should you monitor your child’s social media accounts?
The short answer: a resounding yes! But parents can’t (and probably shouldn’t) look over their child’s shoulder every time they are on their laptops, tablets, or smartphones. Not only is it physically impossible, but it’s also a surefire recipe to build resentment and mutual mistrust.
What you can do is to establish a set of regulations and guardrails for social media use that will allow your child a measure of freedom while giving you peace of mind.
We’ll help you navigate this brave, not-so-new world of parenting in the social media age.
6 ways to monitor child’s social media accounts
1. Educate Yourself About Social Media
Social media is far from new. Many parents of school-aged children grew up with MySpace (launched in 2003) and Facebook (launched in 2005). We are not opposed to technology and new ways of connecting. But with the rise of Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and who knows what else, it can be hard to keep up!
But you can’t monitor what you don’t understand. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the most popular social media platforms.
You don’t have to be an expert on the features, you just have to know enough to be able to make informed decisions. It’s important to get a sense for how your child may be using the platform. Is it to Like and Comment on other people’s posts? Is it to share selfies? Is it to share videos of dancing and singing?
2. Limit the Social Media Platforms Your Child Can Sign Up For
Your child does not need to be on every social media platform that pops up. Let them choose which ones they want to sign up for, but don’t hesitate to set a limit.
Find out which ones are best for their age groups or necessary for school. Perhaps every year, if they’ve proven to be responsible social media users, you can renegotiate which or how many platforms they are allowed access to.
They may find that they’ve outgrown one platform and would want to sign up for a much “cooler” one. Case in point, one survey suggests that Facebook has been waning in popularity with Gen Zers, while TikTok seems to be the reigning favorite — for now.
3. Set Up Your Child’s Social Media Account Together
Most social media platforms specify that members need to be of a certain age before they can sign up. But, let’s be honest, it’s easy to get by age online verification measures. Even a child — your child — can do it.
It’s a good idea to follow the minimum age requirement anyway. It shows them that you take the rules seriously. If they want to join a social media platform, and they are old enough, make sure you go through the sign-up process together.
You can control the settings for privacy, searchability, and other features, and you can take that opportunity to explain to your child the precautions they need to take while using the platform.
Signing up for an account with you right there also means you’ll be privy to their log-in credentials. You may allow them to change it later on if you decide they are mature enough.
4. Be Where They Are, But Be Discreet
There are some features and information that only platform users and close contacts will be able to access. It helps to be on all the same social media platforms as your child so you can “follow” them or add their accounts.
You’ll be able to keep tabs on what they share and their activities. You’ll also see who is “liking” their posts and interacting with them publicly.
It’s best to be discreet and to give them space. Don’t add their friends without asking them how they’ll feel about it first. Resist the urge to react to everything they post.
5. Sign Up for Family Accounts
You are not the first parent to ever worry about their child’s social media use. Service providers have long heeded the call for better monitoring and protection for children online.
Research what your mobile and internet providers have to offer and take full advantage of it.
You’ll be able to restrict access to apps and pages and check their online activities. You may also limit the time they spend online, and track their locations.
6. Download Parental Monitoring Apps
Social media parental controls have evolved. Still, some kids are really tech-savvy. They might find a way around the restrictions you set up. It doesn’t hurt to have another layer of guardrails in place to monitor their social media use.
There are many apps for parents to monitor social media. Some of them only work on a particular social media platform, so you may have to download a separate monitoring app for each of the platforms your child is on.
WebSafety will let you see every photo your child uploads on Instagram and Facebook. Bark monitors your child’s social media, as well as text messages and email, for signs of cyberbullying. Qustodio will let you block certain apps and set limits on how much time they spend on Facebook and Twitter.
Parents monitoring social media
Keep in mind that it doesn’t start and end in monitoring your child’s social media accounts. That is only a small part of what you need to do as a parent.
You want to raise your child to be sensible and trustworthy, as well as smart about their social media use. That will entail open communication. Make them feel safe enough to talk to you and include you in their social lives, both online and off.
There is no hard and fast rule for parents to follow when it comes to how much social media supervision is appropriate. There are many factors to consider. Your child’s age, personality, friends, and their track record for being honest and forthcoming, to name a few.
Have they been in trouble before? Have you ever caught them in the major lie? Are their friends trustworthy? It’s a minefield.
Nevertheless, try not to treat your child with suspicion if they’ve done nothing to deserve it. No one likes the feeling of being doubted or spied on without cause.
Our kids have a reasonable expectation of privacy. As parents, we should recognize that there needs to be a healthy balance between respecting our kids’ autonomy online and keeping them safe.
There might be some pushback, especially as your child nears their teenage years. But a child who is loved and cared for will know instinctively that their parents, however strict, are coming from a place of love. Better safe than sorry!