Freelance writer and blogger Brooke Romney shares some great insights for parents on how they can safely help their kids navigate the world of social media. For the full article, go here.
- Direct Messaging: In the top right corner of the home screen, there is a little mailbox that holds all of your Instagram direct messages. This is where kids can send private pictures and messages to each other instead of posting them for the world to see.
Why is this important? This is a hot spot for nude picture exchanges and requests. This is also a place where teens can have some pretty unsavory group conversations and where group bullying can happen.
How can you stay aware?
Many parents falsely think that as long as they are “following” their son or daughter that they see everything that they are posting, but that is not the case. Many teen exchanges happen through direct messages. You should check these regularly by jumping on their phone or logging into their account. Hopefully there are no surprises.
Why is this important? Unfortunately, even innocent searches can turn up really sleazy images. Along those lines, purposeful searches for pornography will yield a cash crop of pictures and/or videos that your teen will have a hard time forgetting.
How can you stay aware? Don’t think your kids don’t understand how to use this feature. Talk about it. There is no search history on Instagram, so all of these searches can be done in private and you cannot filter accounts with a ratings system or monitor them that I know of. If you don’t feel your child is old enough or mature enough to handle these options positively, allow them Instagram on your phone or personal computer only where you can be aware of what is going on.
Why is this important? Positive body image is key for so many aspects of life, but it is super hard to cultivate during the teenage years. Social media makes it more difficult than ever and the unrealistic physical expectations for both boys and girls have gotten out of control.
How can you stay aware? Talk to your kids about who they follow and why they follow them. Go through their “following” list together on a regular basis and weed unnecessary accounts out and add some good ones in. Remind them about how easy it is to distort pictures through posing, cropping, and filters. Check in often about how they are feeling about themselves and their body. Intervene when you see signs that make you worry.
Why is this important?Whether you have a girl or a boy, these images are NOT things you want them to see. I clicked out as quickly as I could, but what I saw was incredibly disturbing. It breaks my heart to think that such young kids would see such distorted, adult things.
How can you stay aware? For one, make sure your child’s account is private, then remind your children to never accept a follower request from someone they don’t know. Have a time when you can go through their requests together and decide if it is someone who should really be following them. Jump on their account and check out their followers and the people they are following on a regular basis, talk to them about the people who make you feel uncomfortable and tell them why. Remind them to never click on a name out of curiosity…there is too much garbage out there. If they happen to see pornography, be sure they feel comfortable telling you what happened and where they saw it.
Why is this important? Even those who claim they don’t really care usually do when they see it plastered all over social media. For those who admit to caring, it can be heart breaking to be left out over and over again.
How you can stay aware? Be honest with your children. Let them know that this is sure to happen and they need to be prepared for it. Encourage them to only follow people who are their actual friends. If it gets to be too much, shut down the account for a while and reevaluate. Does it bring peace and happiness to their life? If not, maybe it is unnecessary. Remind them that it is okay not to be so plugged in.