The Best Parental Controls for Childhood Social Media
7 tips for making parental control on social media a success.
Protecting childhood safety and innocence is a universally accepted core value for all parents. We carefully screen movie ratings, books, TV shows and even food labels for inappropriate content and toxins but, despite what our instincts tell us surrounding internet dangers, we hand our kids smartphones and tablets and blindly send them off to play alone on the world’s largest and most dangerous “virtual playground.”
Why? We feel pressure from our children, society, schools, other parents and even our own extended families. We may know that the temptations are too great for our kids, so we seek out the most researched parental control solutions only to discover that they fall short of our expectations and are quickly outgrown or outsmarted by our tech-savvy kids. As parents, we know how quickly the time flies as our children journey from childhood into adulthood. Do you want those precious moments to be smothered by social media?
On the list of “If I had the chance to do it over again,” many parents confess that they wish they would have waited on giving their children access to a smartphone and to social media. Research shows that kids who spend more time on social media:
- Experience higher levels of anxiety and depression
- Achieve lower GPAs
- Are diagnosed with lower ”emotional intelligence”
Pro-active parenting is the best parental control on the market. Parents who have had the most success managing a child's social media access are the ones who have taken leadership over the screens in their home and who have educated themselves. They are proactive in their approach. They are confident. They also have a clear plan and they do not wait for trouble to show up before they react. Proactive parents ...
- Balance technology use in their home. These parents recognize social media is not for children or teenagers and, because it is difficult to manage, it should be delayed, radically limited, or eliminated from their child’s digital diet. The “benefits” of social media do not support the risks.
- Trust their own common sense and do not waiver in the face of culture pressure. They are informed and are not distracted by bandwagon pleas or peer pressure by other parents. These parents know digital mistakes can last a lifetime.
- Place developmental needs ahead of social media entertainment. By delaying social media usage, these parents know their children will blossom socially, physically, emotionally and academically in a timely and appropriate manner.
- Stay strong and are not afraid to say "no." These parents know that loving their children often means saying “no.” They recognize maturity takes time and cannot be “fast-tracked” by social media exposure.
- Believe kids do not need to develop a “brand” for themselves online. These parents view social media as a great tool for businesses and adult communication, but not beneficial for childhood self-esteem development.
Rethinking Social Media Parental Control Solutions
Knowing the role that social media plays in the family’s life, it is easier for parents to now look for real social media solutions to fit the family. Remember, kids don’t need social media to be happy, social or successful. Here are a few ideas to consider as you get started.
Delay access to private social media accounts until significant “adult” life skills are mastered. If you are questioning if your child is mature enough to handle phone temptations, then he or she is not ready. Do you think your child will have a meltdown if you delay access? Take time to consider the potential meltdowns you will experience with social media access and blunders. Also, resist the temptation to give your teen the “hand-me-down” smartphone when you upgrade. Instead, sell the old phone and use the money to fund a family fun night.
Start with a basic, text-only cell phone. Demonstrating maturity and gratitude for a basic phone before having a smartphone builds responsibility in teens. In addition, a basic phone is cost effective and offers fewer distractions, making it a better choice for new teen drivers. This is another “safe” reason to delay smartphones.
Create family social media accounts on parent-controlled screens if social media is desired. For example, a family Facebook or Instagram (“the Smith Family”) can be jointly used by parents and teens together. The purpose of connecting with friends is met, but the risk is minimized. Family accounts are the perfect training ground because they teach respect, build self-control, and establish accountability. If your child doesn't want to participate with a family account because it isn’t cool or she desires privacy, then she developmentally is not ready for social media yet.
7 Tips for Social Media Parent Control Success
Once you are convinced your teen is mature enough to resist harmful and inappropriate content, then consider these parental control suggestions:
- Read your child’s/teen’s texts. Most wireless providers can setup your device to receive all incoming and outgoing texts. If your teen feels it’s an invasion of privacy, tell them they are free to make a private phone calls any time. Anything they say via text should be treated as “public” and has the potential to follow them for their entire life. This is called accountability training and, at a minimum, should help your teen practice responsibility and control before sending their next text message. Find your provider’s parental control plans. Note: iPhones are the most difficult to follow texts through your phone carrier. However, if you turn off iMessage in Settings you will force SMS messages, which are easier to follow on your device through carrier.
- Allow only the apps you think are best and change where apps are located. Take social media (and game) apps off the phone and add back only the most essential ones you deem necessary to the family/kitchen laptop. Changing the location of the social media apps is another easy way to lower distraction, be more purposeful, and balance time that can be easily wasted.
- Establish clear rules but not a smartphone contract. Parent (not child) writes and enforces the rules for smartphone use smartphone contracts do not work. Caution, managing the rules is a full-time job!
- Remove Safari from your child’s phone. They can still text without Safari. Problems stem from children having internet access in their pocket 24/7. This will provide a nice guardrail for distractions and some unnecessary content but remember, even with Safari removed on an iPhone your child can still view inappropriate content through texts, many social media apps, vault or hidden apps and even Pinterest.
- Reduce the amount of time on social media. Thirty minutes a day is more than enough time to touch base with family and friends, as no child realistically needs 7-9 hours a day to check on friends (and strangers). A reduction in time will mean more balance, less distractions and more time spent doing other activities.
- Set up accountability software. If you allow child/teen social media, then install an app that will allow you to follow their activity (with their knowledge). Also, you must know all of your child’s social media account passwords, and follow them on these accounts (a non-negotiable). Transparency and accountability is the key to social media success. Privacy is for voice phone calls, not for public posts, texts and photos.
- Increase real social interactions. Tweens and teens often feel more left out when they are on social media, as they see what the whole world is doing without them. Your teen will always socialize and bond better in person than on social media. Be sure your child is getting plenty of time with friends in person.
Like a coach, be firm but caring, always looking out for the best interest of your player and don’t forget to lead by example ... they are watching you the most. Don’t be afraid to say “no” for now and don’t stress any longer over finding the best parental control, Mom and Dad, you happen to be perfect for the job!
For more tips on managing screens in your home go to www.familiesmanagingmedia.com.