Social media is basically the main form of communication for teens and tweens, with Snapchat and Instagram growing by leaps and bounds. Not all parents agree on whether kids should be using social media, but if you plan to allow your children into the digital world, here are some tips to make sure they're staying safe, even when you're not around to monitor their activity.
1. Keep it private. The privacy mode on Instagram requires anyone who wants to follow the user to send a request. That request must then be accepted. Have a conversation with your children about who they are allowed to add to their account. This feature will also keep strangers from checking out the Stories feature on Instagram.
2. Purge the unknowns. Go through with your child and know who they're following and who is following them. If there are questions or concerns about people on either list, purge that person. Some celebrity accounts may not be age appropriate. Review these pages and make a decision based on the content posted.
3. Location. Location. Location. When users post a picture or video on Instagram, there's an option to share the location of where the post is coming from. To prevent any cyber stalking, encourage your children to not engage in that feature.
4. Review the profile. Make sure kids aren't posting too much information about themselves in their profile. Never post a phone number or exact location. Some parents also suggest not sharing the child's last name, school or grade level.
Instagram has this great security guide resource for parents.
It's hard to monitor activity on Snapchat. The app is designed for quick bursts of information that are gone after ten seconds (or 24 hours if it's added to the user's My Story feature). But here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure safety.
1. Close the map. When Snap Map is engaged, it gives the user's exact location to anyone in their contacts. This can be troublesome not just for strangers finding out where you or your child is at any given time, but it can also lead to problems among peers.
2. Snaps can last forever. It was mentioned before that Snaps disappear after 10 seconds. But remind your child that there are ways around that. The receiver of a Snap can take a screenshot of the image and have it forever. Yes, the sender will get a notification that it's been saved, but there are even ways around that. A clever user can use another device to record or take a photo of the Snap that's been sent. The person on the other end is none the wiser.
3. Beware of bullies. Let your children know if someone is harassing them on any form of social media to report it. If and when problems arise, contact Snapchat directly. You can do that right here.
Whether it's Snapchat, Instagram or other forms of social media, keep the line of communication open with your children. Follow them on their accounts and keep an eye out for problems. Sometimes teenagers want to venture into social media without a parent getting into their business. You know your child better than anyone else. Judge if they're old enough to be online without the oversight. In my house, we monitor the activity and talk openly about the real consequences that can evolve from carelessness on social media.
Here is a great resource for how to set your safety settings on Snapchat.