What parents should know about social media safety

Did you know that social media is more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol?

The Association for Psychological Science confirms this is the case. More than any other addiction, social media conflicts with basic personal needs. This is especially true for intense desires like sleep.

That’s incredible! For thousands of years, humanity has not been able to stave off sleep. Now sleep is no match for social media.

Give a child Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat, are they getting enough night’s rest? That’s just the tip of iceberg when it comes to social media’s inherent risks.

Are your children safe?

ESET recently surveyed parents about their children’s online safety. While 80% of them believe online safety is important, of those surveyed, only 37% enabled any safety features on their children’s phones.

As social media companies demand more personal information, and children spend more time on their smartphones, this creates unmitigated risk. Without parental guidance, children are often unaware of how social media activity may affect their future. What happens on the Internet often stays on the Internet forever.

Talking about social media safety is a critical conversation parents need to have with their children. Perhaps it’s just as critical as a conversation about the birds and the bees. Just like sex, if parents don’t talk about social media with their children, they’ll get their information from the schoolyard.

Should your children learn about social media safety from you? Or should they learn it from Liam and Emma? One thing I know, your children’s friends are unlikely to truly appreciate social media’s risks as much as you do.

Some resources that help

Things change quickly in social media. What was hot five years ago is now ancient history. Thankfully, there are resources to help.

Legacy Health Endowment recently released A Quick Guide to the Basics of Social Media. It details how to quickly adjust the privacy settings for each current popular social media app. There’s also great tips for how to better manage your children’s time spent on their platform.

Another great resource is the Government of Canada’s Get Cyber Safe website. It has useful information on cyberbullying, child and online exploitation, and identity protection.

It’s also important to know about current Internet safety laws. In the USA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is constantly enforced. In 2019, the FTC fined Google $170 million for violating children’s online privacy. This has resulted in changes. Beginning in January of this year, YouTube now requires channel operators to mark any video that is “child-oriented”.

Finally, I recommend my friend Justin Payeur Bench Banter podcast. It keeps parents up to date on new developments in online safety. Justin is the co-founder of Boomerang Parental Control, which helps parents manage children’s smartphone use.