After a series of vague, anonymous shootings and bomb threats went viral this week, school districts across the United States issued warnings, tightened security and, in some cases, canceled classes.
No major effects have resulted, but this is just the most recent social media-related situation that parents have found themselves – and their children – caught in.
With several incidents related to TikTok lately – including the “challenges” to slapping the teachers and vandalize schools – parents may be wondering what they can and should do to keep track of what their children are exposed to on social media.
For starters, you want to know if your kid is using an app like TikTok, which has already more than a billion users. The short video app has a curated version for users under 13 (new users must pass an age barrier to use the app). For 13-15 year olds, TikTok sets accounts to private by default and users must approve followers and allow comments.
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But many younger children are using the app, including Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s 8-year-old daughter, North Kardashian, who this week released a live video of her mother in bed before Kim Kardashian said: ” No, stop, you’re not allowed” BuzzFeed Reported.
“I think it’s really important for parents to know when their kids are using the app, especially younger ones,” said Yalda Uhls, professor of psychology and founding director of UCLA’s Center for Scholars & Storytellers. “At this age they are too young to really understand the vastness and permanence of the internet, so it is essential that parents are involved if they let their child use the app.”
How can parents track their kids’ social media usage?
Most parents didn’t grow up with social media and two-thirds (66%) say parenting has become more difficult than 20 years ago, largely due to smartphones and mobile devices. social media, according to Pew Research Center. Although nearly three-quarters (73%) of 50-64 year olds say they use social media, platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok are much younger, center research has found.
The good news: TikTok is easier to understand than the messaging app Snapchat, which also allows you to send personalized video messages that disappear in 24 hours. The bad news: Parents may underestimate TikTok, which also lets you post edited videos to include music, text, and other special effects.
“Sometimes parents think it’s harmless,” Uhls said. But “it’s very easy to use for young children. So it raised the stakes in terms of getting your child involved in your child’s social media life long before they’re really ready for these tools.”
Parents can download the app themselves and try to learn a bit more about how the platform works.
On Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you choose to connect with another person or follow an account. While you can follow an account on TikTok, it’s “very different because you just get a stream of videos that the platform thinks you’d be interested in,” said University of Florida professor and director Andrew Selepak. the graduate program specializing in social media. A young person will receive different content than an adult, he said.
But tap “Discover” and you can search for “challenges” or “music” to see what’s currently trending on the app.
Technology can help you protect your child online
If your child wants access to TikTok, parents can start by sharing an account with them using the app’s Family Pairing feature, suggests Common Sense Media. Parents’ Ultimate Guide to TikTok. Parents can see what kids are watching and posting, but the guide notes that kids can create a different account with a different email address and phone number.
Also under Digital Wellbeing in app settings: Screen time management and restricted content features.
Most devices also have parental controls, which allow you to set settings or limits on how long a device or app can be used and restrict access to certain apps and content. Details on Apple’s parental controls for screen time and content can be found at Apple website, while instructions for Screen Time and Apps Allowed on Android devices can be found here.
For more options, consider To bark, a leading app, which can be installed on a child’s Android or iOS smartphone or device. Bark can be configured to monitor screen time, block or allow certain apps, and send alerts to parents when their child has encountered – or sought out – certain content (violence, sexual content, online predators, suicide, depression, anxiety) .
“The app acts as a dashboard, where you can look at all your different kids and all the different accounts, what you might need to log in with, who has alerts, what are the alerts, and what are you doing? ” said Titania Jordan, parent manager at Bark.
The best tactic is to talk about social networks
Monitoring apps can work for a while, but as kids get older, “it’s almost an honor for a tween (or) teenager to bypass them,” said Uhls, who sits on Bark’s advisory board. .
Education on social media – parents and children can learn together – and discussion on different platforms are important, she said.
The recent TikTok school safety event could provide an opportunity to show interest and bring up the subject with your kids. “Social media breeds anxiety in adults, and for good reason, but to keep a window into our children’s online lives, we need to come from a place of curiosity rather than condemnation,” said Christine Elgersma, Social Media Editor and Learning Resources at Common Sense Media.
Parents, caregivers and teachers need to remember “that what we see as children’s lives on screen, they only see their lives. There is no division,” she said . Starting conversations about what’s going on on social media should start early, because “kids can become more private with their parents as they get older, which is normal,” Elgersma said.
A good approach: Be curious, ask what your child’s friends are doing on social media, to avoid a direct question. “Playing the ‘dorky adult’ angle and asking kids to educate us on what’s new or cool puts them in a position of power and being in the know, and we get some of the information we want,” a- she declared.
And remember, just because a child doesn’t have a smartphone or TikTok app doesn’t mean they aren’t exposed to what’s on the app. TikTok videos can be shared on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and via SMS. “If your child takes the bus, if he is surrounded by other children who have a smartphone, in the dining room, at recess, there is a good chance that one of them has it and let him see it. It’s inevitable,” Jordan said.
Parents, she said, “need to have these difficult but very important conversations with them about school violence, cyberbullying, pornography, online predators and mental health. All of these things are so much more on our children’s faces than they were when we were children, and we are their support system, we have to fix it, we have to be there for them.
Help can come from Congress, which has held recent social media audiences. “It’s great for a parent to sit down and talk to their child (about the issues),” Selepak said. “It seems like it’s up to the platforms to understand the dangers…and (to have the content removed) to stop impressionable underage kids doing stupid things.”
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.