Keeping Your Kids Safe on Social Media

Young girl in bedroom using laptop with headphones
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When it comes to internet safety for kids, one important aspect that must be addressed is social media sites.

Social media sites such as Facebook can be a great way for kids to interact with each other. But it’s also important for parents to be aware of the negative effects and dangers of being on such sites.

Social Media Safety Tips for Parents

Here are some tips to keep in mind about how to keep kids safe on social media sites.

Think of the Internet as a Big, Open Space

You wouldn't drop your child off at a big public place like a mall for the day and expect everyone he meets to treat him with kindness and protect his best interests, would you? That is a good analogy for what happens when a child goes online unsupervised. Be sure to keep a close eye on exactly who your child is talking to and when.

Be Aware of the Potential for Bullying

While it is probably the case that many children online will have pleasant interactions with friends and peers, for the most part, the truth is that bullying —both online and off—is a reality among children.

When you have more opportunity for social interaction, you have more opportunity for rejection or bullying by peers.

Keep an eye out for signs that your child may be a victim of bullying, and educate yourself about bullying in school.

Know About Something Called Facebook Depression

Researchers say looking at Instagram or Facebook posts of happy events in others’ lives can make some kids with poor self-esteem feel even worse. That makes a certain amount of sense when you consider the fact that people tend to post happy news and photos of themselves at parties on social media sites.

Be sure to explain to your child that what he sees on social media sites is definitely not a reflection of what a person’s everyday real life is really like. People are not likely to post news about failures or mistakes or times when they are not feeling good about themselves. Images of shiny, happy people on such sites tell only a small part of the much bigger story.

Don't Succumb to Peer Pressure From Other Parents

While social media sites such as Facebook often have age requirements for users (Facebook requires users to be at least age 13), the reality is that many children far younger than that are on these sites.

One survey by Consumer Reports found that as many as 7.5 million kids on Facebook are younger than 13, and 5 million are as young as 10 years old or under. To compound the problem, only 18% of parents had friended their kids, which is an effective way to monitor kids’ social media activity.

Your grade-schooler may come home and ask to be on Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat because all her friends are on it. Ultimately, the decision is up to the parents. But if they do choose to allow their young grade-school-age child to go onto a social media site such as Facebook, there are some things they should keep in mind.

First, allowing kids to lie about their age so that they can join a social media site means that you are lying, and showing your child that it is sometimes okay to lie. Second, if you do decide to allow your child to have a profile on such a site, you should monitor her activities very closely and be sure you friend her and have access to her email account.

Set a Solid Foundation of Trust and Communication

Be sure that your child knows that he can go to you with a problem and that you will listen to whatever problems he may be having without fear of losing your love or affection. When you become someone your child feels like he can rely on and confide in, he will be more likely to talk to you about any problems.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Pantic I. Online Social Networking and Mental Health. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2014;17(10):652-657. doi:10.1089/cyber.2014.0070

  2. Consumer Reports. CR Survey: 7.5 Million Facebook Users are Under the Age of 13, Violating the Site’s Terms. 2011.

By Katherine Lee
Katherine Lee is a parenting writer and a former editor at Parenting and Working Mother magazines.