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Social Media

Safer social media use

Learn which social media sites and apps children are using and how you can protect them.

Social media sites and apps are an important part of how children, tweens and teens use the internet. Younger children may enjoy using sites like Animal Jam or Neopets that do not fit the traditional social media mold, but still allow users to communicate with each other.

Over three-quarters of teens (ages 13-17) are using social media sites  and apps like Facebook, Ask.fm, Instagram and WhatsApp. Some teens even download adult dating apps such as OKCupid and Tinder.

What are the risks?

 While using social media, children and teens may have to deal with:

  • Inappropriate content. Most social media sites have rules about what's OK to post, but there may still be sexual, violent, illegal or other types content you don't want children to see.
  • Cyberbullying. Some children and teens may make cruel comments to or about their peers on social media. Social media sites where people can post anonymously make cyberbullying especially easy.
  • Identity thieves. Children and teens may share personal information, leaving them open to identity theft, scams or hacking.
  • Sexting. Some teens and children may share nude or partially nude images through social media apps and face academic, social, or even legal consequences.

What about "online predators"? This is a big fear for many adults. Although it doesn't happen very often, some teens do receive unwanted sexual requests, also called online sexual solicitations.

Don't worry, there's good news!

Most children use social media appropriately, for example, to stay in touch with friends or explore their interests. They’re not all cyberbullying, sexting or posting personal information. However, it’s still important for you to be familiar with these risks so you know what to do if your children come to you with a problem.

Tips

What can I do?

Use these tips to help kids and teens use social media more safely.

  • Learn about popular social media apps for children and teens. Find out which ones your children are using, but remember that these apps gain and lose popularity quickly.
  • Ask them to check their “friends” lists to see who has access to their accounts. Encourage them to remove anyone they don’t know or trust. Children should also block or “unfriend” anyone bothering them.
  • Teach them to use privacy settings. While they don’t guarantee complete privacy, they can help children control who sees what they share.
  • Help children remove any personal or inappropriate images from social media and other accounts.
  • Encourage them to report inappropriate posts to the website or app. Most have a system in place to handle these complaints.
  • Tell children to report criminal behavior to the police. If anyone sends them an inappropriate sexual request, they should report it to the CyberTipline®.

Discussion Starters

Start the conversation!

Use these discussion starters to talk about using social media safely with every age group.

Ask children:

  • What’s your favorite website? What do you like to do there?
  • Have you ever seen something online you didn’t want to see?
  • Do you ever talk to people you don’t know online? What do you talk about?

Ask tweens and teens:

  • Can you show me which sites and apps you’re using?
  • Would you feel comfortable if I checked your accounts?
  • What kinds of things do you post?
  • How do you decide who to add as a friend?
  • How much personal information do you share online?