A Parents’ Guide to Social Media Safety for Teens

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Teens have a digital footprint from a very young age, and many social media platforms allow users 13 and up to join. As a parent, managing your teen's use of social media is intimidating but essential.

Ultimately, the decisions around your teen's social media usage should be made at the family level with open dialogue around use, benefits, and potential dangers. Consider their feelings as family guidelines are put into place. Here are some principles and guidelines to consider as you make decisions about social media for the teens in your family.

The Right Age for Social Media

For most social media accounts, you must be 13 or older to sign up and create an account. At the very least, ensure your teen is old enough before letting them create an account. Beyond adhering to legal requirements, the right age for social media will vary from teen to teen.

Digital literacy is important. Make sure you have a basic understanding of how the social media platforms your teen is using work. Ultimately, the decision is up to you as a parent, but consider involving your child in the conversation.

Set Proper Privacy Settings and Parental Controls

Setting proper privacy settings is important. Social media platforms' default settings make accounts and posts visible, so you or your teen should change those. Popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok all have guides on how to adjust privacy settings.

Consider using parental controls on your teen’s phone. Both iOS and Android have parental controls that allow you to limit screen time, access to certain apps, and app store purchases.

Don’t Post Personal Information

Make sure your teens know not to post personal information—like phone numbers, addresses, etc. It’s wonderful to proudly show off a college acceptance letter but make sure the address isn’t visible.

Address the Mental Health Effects

Your teen is excited to be on social media. Talking to friends and keeping up with their lives can be a blast. But social media can have detrimental effects on mental health. Excessive social media is linked to depression, negative self-image, and eating disorders.

Another consideration: Phones emit blue light, which can affect sleep.

This is not meant to scare you or your teen off social media. But your teen should understand that social media isn't always fun. It can make them feel sad and anxious. As their parent, let them know the door for communication is always open, and keep an eye out for signs of depression and anxiety.

Set Rules, But Keep the Conversation Open

It’s not a bad idea to set some rules around your teen’s social media use. With that said, there is no one-size-fits-all rule or plan that will work for every family. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, either. Tap your network of parent friends and see what worked for them!

You should set a good example for your kids, too. If you set rules, make sure the whole family follows them. No phones after 10pm? That rule applies to the entire family.

Your child's school likely has a handbook on social media. They should follow the rules in that handbook, especially when they're on campus and in class.

Evaluate the rules with your teens each year as they get older. Rules that made sense at 13 might not be relevant when your teen is 17 and finishing high school. Think of their social media use as a journey you're on together.

Finally, it's important that your teen understands their posts and comments can have consequences. Those consequences could be short-term, like an argument with a friend, or ripple into adulthood.

If you need more advice on parenting and technology, check out our guide to the best phones for kids and our tips for managing your child’s technology usage.

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