9 Ways to Keep Your Child Safe on Social Media

teenager on social media

When we talk to parents about your biggest worries, you tell us you’re concerned about how to keep your child safe on social media.

Over half of children aged 5-15 use social media sites or apps, and that rises to 87% when we look at just 12 to 15-year-olds. And there are some shocking statistics about the impact social media has on children.

One study showed older children who are more frequent users of social media and TV can have more severe symptoms of depression. And, as a leaked presentation by Facebook revealed, “32% of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.”

Younger children on social media

Most social media sites have a 13+ age rating, but remember, each platform sets their own rules. It’s worth checking each one to make sure you know if your child should be on there.

If you find they have set up an account and they’re underage, report it to the platform so they can delete it. 

With younger children, you can find child-friendly alternatives to social media. For example, if your child wants to go on YouTube, you could download YouTube Kids instead. Then you know all the videos will be suitable for younger children. Remember, it’s still important to supervise them while they’re watching. 

Young children enjoying screen time online

Often, children just want to chat with their friends online. Many popular video games have a chat feature, just check the parental settings first to control who can talk with your child.

Younger children may enjoy video calling friends and relatives with you there to supervise and assist. 

How to keep your child safe on social media

All children feel a pressure to fit in. They don’t want to miss out on the fun, especially if they know their friends are online. But when your child starts using social media, there are simple ways you can help keep them safe.

1: Talk about your worries

Be open about any concerns you have about particular social media platforms. Rather than banning them, discuss the problems and ask your child’s opinion about alternatives they could use. 

Schools often send home messages about worrying trends or safety issues they’ve been warned about. Talk these through with your child and ask them if it’s a problem they’ve experienced.

2: Check privacy settings

Many children are unaware how visible their profiles are on social media. Don’t assume their accounts default to private settings. Carefully check the security options on all their social media accounts and explain why this is important to keep them safe. 

3: Keep bedrooms screen-free

Social media can easily take over your child’s life. Having a space that’s removed from it gives them breathing space and allows them time to be offline. With no screens in the bedroom, they’ll get better sleep and can stay on top of their school work.

You’ve also probably heard horror stories about children being groomed online, the pressure to send indecent photos, and online bullying. Keeping screens out of the bedroom lets you keep an eye on their online activities.

4: Have screen-free times of day

We’re all guilty of mindlessly scrolling through our phones. Having fixed times with no screens lets everyone focus on spending time together.

How about having phones off over dinner, or spending one evening a week without them? Turn it into a positive and enjoyable experience rather than it feeling like a punishment.   

children enjoying screen time

5: Teach them how to be safe

Your child needs to know that not everyone they meet online will be who they say they are. Make sure they know how to keep themselves safe by only accepting friend requests from people they’ve met in real life and trust.   

Children don’t realise just how public social media is. Talk to them about keeping personal information private, for example by not posting pictures in their school uniform. Discuss what they should do if they see something frightening or upsetting online.

6: Positive body talk

People make their lives look perfect on social media. Airbrushed pictures give your child unrealistic ideas about how they should look. It’s no surprise that social media can have a huge negative impact on their self-esteem. 

Talk to your child about the photos they see on social media. Dove’s recent “Reverse Selfie” campaign is an excellent way to show them how online photos are edited.

7: Boost their self esteem

Counteract some of the negative impact social media has on your child’s self-esteem by telling them all the things they’re good at.

Talk about how proud you feel of them and remind them how much you love them.

8: Be a role model

It’s hard to tell our children to spend less time on social media if we’re glued to it ourselves. Most of us are in the habit of scrolling through social media feeds whenever we have a moment free.

Take an honest look at your own social media use and plan ways to reduce it.

9: Remind them it’s there forever 

The news is full of people losing their jobs because of something they said on social media, often many years ago. Teach your child that everything they post is there forever, for everyone to see.

A good way they can check if a post is appropriate is using “the teacher test,” by asking themselves, “Would I be happy showing this to my teacher?” 

Social media is here to stay. It’s become a part of all of our lives. But teaching your child how to use it safely helps counteract the negative impact it can have.