Should parents collect the passwords to their children’s social media accounts? Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat… new platforms are being added and modified every day, but what kind of risk, if any, do they pose to pre-teens and teenagers who do not tend toward bad behavior?
Social media platforms and apps are ever evolving, adding new features loved by their users and more difficult for parents and caregivers to track. Even the best behaved and most well-meaning of kids may stumble upon a potentially dangerous facet of social media without knowing it. A message on Snapchat from an unknown user might just be a friend who changed their name or it may be an anonymous someone sending a picture that is a bit more unsavory and inappropriate.
The worst part of it? Snapchat pictures disappear after 24 hours. Even if parents and caregivers have access to their pre-teen and teenager’s social media accounts there is the possibility that one of those pictures may have slid through without being detected. Photo based apps can make kids particular susceptible to cyber-bullying as well, allowing internet trolls or friends from school to make comments to strike the most sensitive nerve.
So what does the conversation need to look like? Mostly, it needs to be transparent and honest. Even if your kids are well-behaved and barely touch social media, they need to know that there are legitimate and significant risks on those platforms (as well as the internet in general) and that they are not immune to them. Sure you can be a bit more graphic with your 15 year old daughter regarding the risks of receiving inappropriate pictures/messages or trafficking, however the conversation should be just as honest with your 13 and 9 year old daughters. It is also worth noting that this conversation should not fall to one parent over the other and that kids know they can approach each parent without fear of punishment for their honesty.