Should You Allow Your Minor Children on Social Media?
The answer to this question will be personal for every family. Parents tend to make this decision largely based on their child's age and maturity level. They may also consider their own social media habits when deciding whether or not to allow their children to have social media accounts. If you and your co-parent are currently struggling with whether to allow your child on social media, you are not alone.
A few things for parents to consider before allowing their child on social media:
- The internet is forever; even deleted posts may still be accessed or saved
- Bullying is common on social media
- Private information is made easily accessible through social media
- You have no control over what other people do on the internet
- You cannot control who attempts to contact your child through social media
- Even private accounts are not totally secure
An important thing to consider is how social media impacts your child's safety. Even without realizing it, social media posts can provide strangers with personal information about your child, including their name, age, location, what school they attend, who their friends are, etc. In the hands of the wrong person, this information can be used to steal your child's identity or worse.
Teach Your Kids About Social Media Safety
Most social media platforms have minimum age requirements for a reason. Most social media apps require users to be at least 13 years old (Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat), while other apps, like WhatsApp, set the minimum age at 16. One of the reasons for having these age limits is to protect young children who are not as adept at keeping themselves safe online. In fact, even adults who have been using social media for decades struggle with internet safety.
While the best way to keep your child safe is to discourage them from joining social media entirely, this is not realistic. According to a 2018 survey of 750 13- to 17-year-olds by the Pew Research Center, 97% of teens use social media. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that you teach your child how to use social media safely.
Tips for social media safety include:
- Educate your children on what a digital footprint is and how it can affect them and their future reputation.
- Teach your children what personal information is okay to share with an app and what isn't
- Teach your children what they can share about their lives on social media platforms and what they should keep private.
- If a site or social media app has parental controls, use them. Similarly, if your child's device (laptop, cell phone, iPad, etc.) has parental controls, use them too.
- Enforce the age limits of the social media platform and do not let children under the minimum age requirement sign up.
- Tell your children never to accept friend requests from people they do not know.
- Teach your children how to spot imposters who may pose as a friend, relative, or teacher online. This can help protect your child from catfishing and cyberstalking.
- Disable location services for all social media apps on your child's device – in general, only allow location services for map programs and other apps where it is truly necessary.
- Keep an open dialogue with your kids; talk to them about their social media usage and encourage them to come to you with problems
It is also strongly recommended that parents regularly monitor their minor children's social media accounts. This includes requiring your child to provide you with all login credentials for the social media platforms they join. If your child is an older teen and you feel they have a good handle on navigating social media safely, you may agree to a compromise. Instead of you having their login information, they add you as a friend so that you can view their profile and monitor their activity that way.
Hand-in-hand with teaching your child internet safety is educating yourself about social media safety and the various apps and accounts your children want to create. Understanding how the app works and reading the fine print of the user agreements can go a long way in helping you keep your children safe online.
Some helpful resources on social media safety:
- Kids and social media: Online safety tips every parent should know
- 7 Ways to Protect Your Kids on Social Media
- Media Guidelines for Kids of All Ages
What If My Co-Parent Disagrees with My Decision
Teaching your child social media safety can be challenging enough, especially if you have a younger child who is desperate to join social media. Things become even more difficult when you and your co-parent disagree on how to handle the situation. In some cases, parents may disagree on when to allow their children to join social media. Other parents may struggle to agree on how much oversight their child needs.
Regardless of the root cause of the disagreement, before you and your co-parent allow your child on social media, you should first get on the same page with each other.
Important things to discuss with your co-parent include:
- What accounts will your child be allowed to have?
- Who will be responsible for monitoring your child's accounts?
- How often will you and/or your co-parent be reviewing your child's online activity?
- In what ways will you monitor your child's social media accounts?
- How much time will you allow the child to be on their device or the internet when they are with you, and will this rule be consistent between both homes?
It is also important for you and your co-parent to have a plan for what you will do if you notice any red flags on your child's accounts or your child experiences problems on social media. For example, what will you do if you believe your child is being targeted with online bullying? What about if a stranger attempts to contact them? These can be difficult conversations to have, and no one likes to think about their child being vulnerable. However, being aware of these risks and what to do if something happens can actually help you keep your child safe and circumvent online dangers.
If you and your co-parent are struggling to agree and you believe you may need to return to court to resolve the issue, reach out to the Law Firm of Johnson & Gaskill PLLC. We know how difficult it can be to resolve a dispute with your co-parent, and we are here to help. We also offer professional mediation services, assisting parents in resolving their disputes outside the courtroom.
Review our blog for more co-parenting tips.