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How To Keep Your Kids and Teens Safe on Social Media

Social media safety for kids can be a confusing topic. Learn how to protect your children from the risks of social media and limit their screen time.

social media safety for kids

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      Is Social Media Safe for Kids?

      Sixteen-year-old Alexis Tapia does the same thing every day when she wakes up and then again at night before going to bed — she obsessively scrolls through TikTok [*]. While she says she knows that her social media use monopolizes her life socially, at home, and at school, she can’t stop

      If you’re the parent of a child or teen, Tapia’s story probably sounds familiar.   

      A 2022 study found that 95% of teenagers and kids in the United States use some form of social media — with 16–20% of them saying that they use social media almost constantly [*].   

      Overuse is just one of the many dangers of social media that kids and teens face. But surprisingly, it’s perhaps one of the least damaging. 

      Social media can also expose your children to cyberbullying, online predators, identity thieves, and inappropriate content. And with child social media use skyrocketing since the start of the pandemic, these risks are only getting worse.

      Unless you ban internet-connected devices from your children’s lives, there’s no way to guarantee that they won’t be exposed to harmful content, people, or situations on social media. So, it’s up to parents to use the tools available to protect their children — while also teaching their kids how to use social media safely. 

      In this guide, we’ll cover the best ways to protect your family on social media platforms— including how to block harmful content and talk to your kids about internet safety and the dangers of social media.

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      How Bad Is Social Media for Kids? Here Are the Risks

      Social media is no doubt a large part of most children’s lives — whether they spend hours on YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, Discord, or other social media apps.

      Young people use social media to connect with friends and family, share interests, and find communities beyond the people around them. But with American pre-teens spending an average of five and a half hours a day on social media [*], there’s a high probability that they’ll also be exposed to harmful content or situations.   

      Here are some of the major risks that social media poses to your child’s safety:

      • Cyberbullying: The effects of cyberbullying on kids and teens can range from low self-esteem to less interest in school, loneliness, and self-isolation. In some cases, cyberbullying has led to mental health issues like depression and anxiety — with some kids having suicidal thoughts. 
      • Adult content: Not all content on social media is kid-friendly. Exposure to inappropriate pictures, videos, or texts (such as sexting) can cause confusion, a warped sense of intimacy in the real world, and psychological damage.  
      • Cyberstalking and online predators: Adult predators often use social networking sites to stalk or groom children. Predators may send unsolicited messages, try to build a relationship, or ask for sensitive photos. Some even go as far as asking children to meet them secretly. 
      • Child identity theft: An underage child has no idea that scammers can steal their identity. Yet, more than 1.5 million American children had their identities stolen last year alone [*]. Children may accidentally reveal sensitive information online that scammers can use to take out fraudulent loans and credit cards or run other scams. 
      “More than 1.5 million American children had their identities stolen last year alone.”
      • Malware and viruses in messages: Hackers send links via social media direct messages (DMs) disguised as game downloads or video content that can secretly infect your child’s device with malware. If your child falls for this trick, hackers can use your child's device to gain access to your bank account or other sensitive information. 
      • Emotional distress and unhealthy relationships with social media: When children spend too much time on social media, they can start to get upset when their real life doesn’t match what they see in their feeds. In some cases, child social media use can lead to depression or even eating disorders and body dysmorphia.
      • Poor communication skills: Social media offers an indirect way of communication through comments, reactions, and texts. When children use this approach long enough, it strips away their ability to communicate directly with people and can impact their capacity to communicate freely.

      💡 Related: These 11 New Discord Scams Can (and Will) Steal Your Data

      12 Social Media Safety Tips and Tools for Kids

      Social media has become a big part of most kids’ lives. Here’s how you can help your children continue to use social media in the safest ways possible. 

      1. Teach your kids not to share personal information on social media

      Sharing information is one of the most obvious ways that kids use social media. But while it’s generally okay for your kids to post about new toys, video games, movies, TV shows they watch, or what’s going on in their lives, other personal information can be misused by scammers and predators. 

      Educate your children about what information shouldn’t be shared on social media. For example, teach them never to post their: 

      • Home address 
      • Full, legal name
      • Online passwords
      • School name or address
      • Date of birth 
      • Social Security number (SSN) 
      • Your work address 
      • Any banking or credit card information 

      It’s not enough to just tell them not to share this information. Make sure you explain why it’s important to keep it private (e.g., to protect them from scammers, predators, or bullies). 

      Here’s what to do: 
      • Create a set of non-negotiable and age-specific rules for how your children can use social media. For example, don’t allow young children to post photos without your permission.  
      • Review your child’s social media profiles and posts for sensitive information. This includes phone numbers, addresses, full names, birthdates, and Social Security numbers (SSNs). 
      • Teach your kids to report all suspicious activity. For example, if someone reaches out to them on social media and claims to be a friend, teacher, or law enforcement, ask your kids to show you the message first before they respond or provide any information — even their name.
      Take action: If scammers have your kid’s personal information, their credit, online accounts, and identity could be at risk. Try Aura’s family identity theft protection free for 14 days to secure your family’s identity against scammers.

      2. Use parental controls to block harmful content

      Parental controls can be used to limit which social media apps your children can use or for how long they can use them. But more importantly, these settings can be used to block harmful or inappropriate content

      With Aura’s parental controls, you can block specific social media apps that may be more harmful to your child. For example, you could block Snapchat but allow Facebook.

      Content filters can also make sure your kids are not exposed to harmful content through links on social media (and also allow you to check in on what they’ve been viewing). 

      Here’s what to do:
      • Download and set up parental controls on both your and your child’s devices. Aura is an all-in-one family safety solution that includes parental controls, family identity theft protection, antivirus, and more. Learn more about how Aura keeps your family safe online
      • Talk to your children about what content is appropriate for them. Set ground rules on the types of content they can interact with safely. Let them know what harmful content is and looks like — and who they should talk to if they’re exposed to something inappropriate. 

      💡 Related: The 10 Best Parental Control App for iPhone (2024)

      3. Set time limits for your kids’ screen time

      Social media overuse is a serious problem — and kids are rarely able to police themselves. 

      Stats on social media use for teens
      More than half of teens say it would be hard to give up social media. Source: PEW Research

      Screen time limits are something that you can enforce as a parent; or you can use parental control apps to do it for you. This way, you don’t have to feel like you’re constantly monitoring your child — and you’re both on the same page about what a reasonable amount of time is to spend on social media. 

      Here’s what to do: 
      • Establish clear screen time limits across all social media. Aura allows you to choose for how long your kids can use each specific social media app — and blocks it once they’ve hit the limit. 
      • Encourage screen-free time throughout the day. For example, restrict device use during playtime, at the dinner table, or when they’re doing homework. 
      • Keep your kids’ devices out of their bedrooms or out of reach during busy or unsupervised periods of time. 

      💡 Related: How To Set Time Limits on Apps

      4. Help them become better social media users (i.e., the “Grandma rule”)

      It can be difficult for your child to decide what they should or shouldn’t post on social media. But teaching them proper social media use is one way to make them less of a target for scammers and predators. 

      The “Grandma rule” is a simple way to explain what they should or shouldn’t post. Tell them to ask themselves before posting: What would Grandma think of this comment, post, or photo?

      Even if you don’t have a grandmother in your life, the question is a reminder that anything kids post stays online and can be viewed by anyone. (You can customize this rule using the name of a family friend or relative whose perspective would resonate with your child.) 

      If your kids don't want certain people to see what they post, they probably shouldn’t post it. 

      Here’s what to do:
      • Make sure their social media accounts are private and that you’re added as a friend. This allows you to monitor what they post — so they know there’s always someone in the family who can see. 
      • Teach your kids to control their reactions online. Train them to slow down and take a minute before posting or responding — especially when they see something that upsets them or is controversial. 
      • Explain the impact of cyberbullying. Look for signs that they’re bullying other kids online and explain the harm of cyberbullying. 

      💡 Related: Internet Safety Tips For Kids & Teens

      5. Limit device usage to shared spaces in the home

      Try to limit your child’s device usage — phones, tablets, and laptops — to shared spaces in the home. Not only will this deter your children from doing things they know they're not allowed to do; but it also helps you keep an eye on their online activity. 

      Here’s what to do:
      • Create a “house rule” for using devices in shared spaces. Limit when or if they can use their computers or smartphones in their rooms. 
      • Set a device “bedtime.” Have your children leave their devices in the kitchen or living room when they go to bed to avoid late-night use. 
      • Create a charging station in a shared area of the house. This can help your kids learn to detach from their phones and interact openly with each other. 

      💡 Related: How To Block Websites on Android Devices (7 Methods)

      6. Empower kids to use blocking and reporting tools

      When kids face any kind of humiliation, intimidation, or harassment on social media, they often find it hard to know how to react. Unfortunately, only one in 10 children inform their parents or caregivers about cyberbullying [*]. 

      Talk to your kids about cyberbullying and what they can do if they become victims. 

      Here’s what to do: 
      • Teach your kids to talk to you about cyberbullying. Explain what cyberbullying is and that you’re there to support them without judgment.  
      • Monitor your children's behavior when they use devices. How they act when they’re using social media can provide clear signs that they need help with cyberbullying.
      • Teach them to use block and report features on their social media accounts to filter out internet trolls and get rid of bullies. Make sure that you (or they) take screenshots of any interactions with bullies before blocking them in case these need to be reported. 

      💡 Related: How To Control Internet Access at Home (and Block Sites)

      7. Teach kids not to click on or download unknown links and files

      Scammers and hackers target children by disguising viruses and malware as video games, cartoons, or TV shows that kids can’t find on streaming services. If they accidentally click on a link or download a file, kids can give hackers full access of their device — including use of their cameras and microphones. 

      Here’s what to do:
      • Talk to your kids early on about the importance of online safety and digital security. Explain how malware makes devices “sick,” and discuss the common ways that hackers may target them. 
      • Set rules about when they can download apps or content — and from where. Only use official app stores and streaming services. 
      • Set up parental controls to block all unapproved downloads or websites. This way, every link that your child clicks on will have to be pre-authorized by you before connecting.
      Take action: If your children accidentally download malware, hackers could steal your identity or empty your bank account. Try an all-in-one digital security solution to keep your devices and finances safe from scammers.

      8. Disable location sharing, and ask teens not to geo-tag photos

      Kids don't often regard their locations as sensitive information. But predators and scammers can use location data to stalk or learn more about them. 

      To avoid compromising the security of your family and property, educate your kids on the dangers attached to publicly sharing their locations. Ensure that they keep their location turned off at all times — unless it's an emergency. 

      Here’s what to do:
      • Disable location sharing on everyone’s devices and social media accounts. That includes your own. There’s no need to share location data with people online or with social media companies. 
      • Remove location sharing permissions for apps on your child’s device. Some apps and tools will request location data. Make sure that you turn this off in your child’s device settings. Here’s how to turn off location sharing on iPhones and iPads as well as Android devices.
      • Regularly check your child's social media accounts to see who's sharing a location with them — and vice versa. 

      💡 Related: How To See What Your Kids Are Doing Online

      9. Educate yourself about social media use and trends

      According to a recent report, kids as young as seven years of age are already using social media [*]. Yet, most parents don't know what apps their kids are using, how they work, and what content is contained on them. 

      Whenever your child is interested in a new social media platform, create your own account first. Get used to how the app works, look for age restrictions and privacy settings, and learn how you can monitor their use. 

      For example, Dan Zigmond, former Director of Analytics at Instagram, required all of his kids to have private Instagram accounts and personally know all of their followers before adding them [*].  

      Here’s what to do:
      • Learn about new social media trends before your kids do. Stay up to date with what kids are doing on social media. This prevents your own kids from being intimidated into joining viral trends or participating in other dangerous activities. 
      • Start talking about social media early on to help your child cultivate healthy online habits. This can motivate them to create positive experiences whenever they interact online. 

      💡 Related: Social Media Privacy — The Risks (And What You Can Do)

      10. Update your child’s social media privacy settings

      Protecting your child’s privacy on social media should be one of your main concerns. 

      Make sure you understand each platform’s privacy settings and have your children set their accounts to be as secure as possible. Here’s how you can change privacy settings on some of the most popular social media platforms:

      TikTok
      • Be sure to set your child's account as private, so that any unknown friend requests can be approved or denied. You can also restrict content to “followers only.” 
      • Enable all Digital well-being features to control your child’s screen time, content, etc.
      • Explore other TikTok parental controls.
      Instagram
      • Set your kids’ accounts to private, so that only people they approve (with your permission) can view or interact with their content. 
      • You can check all of Instagram's privacy settings here
      Snapchat
      • Change your child’s settings to private, which will limit who can see your child's snaps to only people they know and follow. The same goes for people who can send them snaps. 
      • Ensure that you block and report inappropriate content or people who interact with your child. You can also read all of Snapchat’s community guidelines to help you understand the type of content allowed. 
      • You can check all of Snapchat’s privacy settings here.

      💡 Related: How To Properly Set Up Your Social Media Privacy Settings

      11. Help them choose strong passwords

      Digital security is not the first thought in kids’ minds when they start using social media. So it's no surprise that children often use weak passwords like birthdays, middle names, or pet names. Even worse, 48% of kids in grades 6–8 say they share their passwords with friends at school [*]. 

      Unfortunately, hackers can easily crack these weak passwords, which can compromise your child’s internet safety — or worse, their identity. 

      Here’s what to do:
      • Teach your children to use complex passwords. Make sure they’re using passwords that are at least 8–10 characters long and comprise a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Create passwords that aren’t easily guessed, and avoid obvious ones like pet names and birthdays.
      • Check if your child's passwords have already been leaked in a data breach. Aura's free leaked password scanner checks the Dark Web and other sites and forums for your family's sensitive information. See what hackers know about you and your family →
      • Set up a family password manager. Aura’s password manager securely stores all of your passwords — so you and your family can use unique and complex passwords without worrying about remembering them.

      💡 Related: The Top 7 Family Identity Theft Protection Services Available

      12. Consider signing up for family identity theft protection services with parental controls

      Keeping tabs on your children's social media accounts — including their passwords, privacy settings, interactions, screen time, and preferences — can be challenging. 

      If you’re worried about your child’s internet safety, consider Aura’s family identity theft solution

      Here’s what you get with Aura: 
      • Parental controls — including screen time limits, and content and app blocking. Keep tabs on what your kids are doing online, limit screen time, or block specific apps and sites to keep them safe. 
      • Family identity theft protection. Aura monitors your child’s SSN (as well as all of your personal information) for signs of fraud.
      • Antivirus and a virtual private network (VPN). Aura protects your devices from hackers and malware with powerful antivirus software and a military-grade VPN.
      • 24/7 U.S.-based customer support. If you need help, Aura’s team of fraud resolution specialists is available around the clock to answer your questions and help you deal with scammers. 
      • $1,000,000 insurance plan. Each adult member on an Aura plan is covered for up to $1 million in eligible losses due to identity theft. 

      When Should Children Start Using Social Media?

      The question is no longer if your children should use social media, but when

      Deciding when your child can start using social media is a personal choice. But most social media platforms also include strict legal age requirements. 

      Here’s a list of the most common social media sites with their minimum age requirements: 

      • Facebook requires users to be at least 13 years old before creating an account. In some jurisdictions, the age limit may be higher.
      • Instagram requires users to be at least 13 years old before creating an account. 
      • Twitter requires people using the service to be 13 years of age or older. 
      • Snapchat prohibits anyone under 13 years of age from creating an account or using their services. Learn more about if Snapchat is safe for kids.
      • TikTok requires users to be 13 (or 14 in South Korea) before creating an account. 
      • YouTube recommends that users be at least 13 years of age before using the service. However, YouTube offers YouTube Kids (where available) if enabled by a parent or legal guardian. 
      • LinkedIn prohibits users under 16 from creating an account or using any of its services.

      💡 Related: When Should Kids Get Their First Phones? (2024 Guide)

      The Bottom Line: Family Comes First

      We live in a world where social media is part of our daily lives — especially for kids. While using the internet at a young age has its benefits, educating your kids about its dangers will help them stay safe online. 

      But kids aren’t the only ones who could be at risk when using social media. To keep your entire family safe from the dangers of social media, remember to:

      • Avoid installing games or downloading apps from unverified sources. 
      • Don't trust questionnaires or puzzles. If you notice an online quiz asking for sensitive information, exit and block the website immediately. 
      • Use a VPN to protect your data from hackers. VPN encrypts your data when you’re surfing the internet, making it unreadable to malicious websites and hackers. 
      • Set your social media privacy settings to “friends or contacts only” to prevent unknown users from interacting with your content.
      • Install antivirus software that blocks viruses from your devices. 
      • Consider signing up for a family identity theft protection plan.

      Although internet safety can be challenging, investing in a reliable family protection plan makes it easier to stay on top of your family's internet activity. After all, family comes first.

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