According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- The average 8-10 year-old spends nearly 8 hours a day on various media (smartphone, tablet, social media, TV)
- Older kids spend more than 11 hours per day, making it the leading activity for older kids and teens (other than sleep)
- Having a TV in the child’s bedroom increases these numbers even more
- Half of this time is spent on social networking sites, viewing videos, or playing games
Social media is a significant part of many young people’s lives, including their social and emotional development. A number of benefits and positive outcomes have been linked to social media, including socialization with peers, enhanced learning opportunities, a broader community, and so on.
However, we also know there are risks. News stories about cases of online harassment, nude photos being shared, threats to safety, and more are common occurrences nowadays. Research has identified a number of risks with social media use, including cyberbullying, depression, viewing inappropriate content, and sleep difficulties. At times, these risks can have serious consequences, and even legal implications.
Given the risks, it is important that parents are aware of the social media sites/apps that their children are using. Ideally, parents monitor and engage in open communication with their kids about social media and other online activities to ensure a healthy environment online, just as they would in any other real-world situation. However, this can be tricky when certain apps do not save information being sent, when new apps are constantly coming-and-going, and when kids and teens are more tech-savvy than their parents! Add in the fact that there are many apps that might fly under parents’ radar and the question of monitoring social media use becomes even more complicated. Below are some types of apps to keep on your radar:
- Ghost Apps or Hidden Apps – these apps (some examples include Calculator% or Audio Messenger) allow the user to contain messages, phone log info, photos, videos, or even other apps hidden in plain site or in a vault on the phone.
- Temporary Apps or Ephemeral Apps – these apps allow the user to send photo, video, or messaging that self-destructs and is not saved to the phone. The most popular temporary app right now for most kids and teens is likely Snapchat.
- Anonymous Apps – these apps allow a user to communicate with random (and possibly nearby) strangers (examples include, Kik, Yik Yak, Ask.fm). Some sites ask for age, sex, and location in order to use the app, which is obviously concerning for safety reasons.
Keeping Your Children Safe
What parents can do:
- Set clear rules around social media use and designated sites/apps that kids can or cannot use. Some families sign a contract after going over these basic rules.
- Have honest and open communication with your child about:
- how to use certain apps (e.g., Snapchat)
- not providing personal information to others online
- their digital footprint – once it’s out there, it’s out there
- how to respond/who to tell if they receive inappropriate requests, observe cyberbullying, and so on
- Teach your child how to think twice before posting/sending
- Continue to monitor and check in with your child about their use of various social media. This is not a “one and done” conversation. It’s an ongoing process of educating your child, monitoring their behavior, and addressing any concerns that arise
- Educate yourself on how to use parental controls or alter privacy settings on your child’s phone
- Investigate and read reviews on all apps that your child has downloaded to be sure they are appropriate and approved by parents
You can get more information from the American Academy of Pediatrics, https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/Media-and-Children.aspx