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February 2022

Social Media 101 for Parents

YouTube, Facebook, Instagram. You may think that you know your way around social media. But how much do you really know about YouTube Kids, Snapchat, and TikTok? Educate yourself about social media apps that appeal to kids. Below are some tips on helping your child use social media safely and appropriately.

Pre-teen and younger sibling exercise while video taping themselves for social media

Are “child-friendly” social media apps OK?

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that preteens should not have their own social media accounts. As an alternative, there are apps designed for kids ages 12 and younger where you sign in with your account and then add a profile for your child. If you go that route:

  • Learn about and actively use the parental control features

  • Monitor what your child is doing, even with the controls activated

  • Consider not only the content, but also the ads when choosing an app

YouTube Kids is one example. Its “Approved Content Only” mode limits your child to watching videos and collections that you have hand-picked. But be aware that your child may still be exposed to advertising or branded content.

When are teens ready for regular social media?

Many social media apps that are popular with teens have content and features that may be inappropriate for some. For example, Common Sense Media rates Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram as being for ages 15 to 16 and older. Regardless of age, your teen needs to be mature enough to use social media responsibly. That means they should:

  • Follow your rules about phone use (for example, turning it off at bedtime)

  • Manage time well (for example, getting their homework and chores done)

  • Show good judgment (for example, being savvy enough to tell a friend from a predator)

Read up on an app’s features and privacy settings, and discuss them with your teen. Setting limits, reinforcing rules, and staying involved in their social media use helps protect their well-being. You can find helpful reviews of many apps here.

What are the warning signs of online bullying?

About 16% of high school students are cyberbullied each year. Many are targeted on social media with mean comments or embarrassing images. Be alert for these red flags:

  • A sharp increase or decrease in time spent on social media

  • Hiding the screen on a phone or device when you’re around

  • Shutting down an active social media account

  • Becoming withdrawn or losing interest in offline activities

If you’re concerned, ask what’s going on and offer your support. You and your child can learn about dealing with social media bullies here.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2021
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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