Looking for social media safety tips for tweens and teens? This practical advice will help everyone ages 8 to 88! Simple tips to prevent your account from getting hacked and avoid spammy followers.
I decided to write this post after being followed on social media by a few of my children’s classmates. As someone who manages multiple social media profiles (a necessary part of being a creator), it’s disconcerting to see photos taken by a 9-year-old who is clearly curating a “public image”.
Then, last fall, I was asked by a fellow parent about how they should approach their tween’s request to have a social media account. I wrote her a huge response, then realized it was probably good advice for anyone using social media (especially parents of teens and tweens).
My kids don’t have social media accounts
Maybe it’s because I work in social media… and thus it’s not cool… but my teen (15) and tween (10) aren’t interested in creating social media profiles. Though I did briefly pay Max to manage my Pinterest accounts. He did a perfect job (best Pinterest manager ever!) for about 4 months. Then he got lazy and he lost interest.
Regardless, social media is bad for your brain. Study after study has shown this to be true.
- Social media use is correlated with anxiety, depression, and psychological distress.
- Frequent use may cause attention deficits.
- Failure to exhibit self-control around social media use is associated with antisocial aggressive behavior.
- There’s also an environmental impact to taking excessive photos and videos.
These are all good reasons why you should consider staying off of social media. (These are also reasons why I’m not really great at social media marketing… I just don’t want to spend that much time on my phone.)
Common problems with social media
Even though I’m not great at social media, I do participate in a bunch of different platforms on a daily basis. So I have more exposure to the pitfalls and issues than most parents.
Here are a few to consider:
1. Creepy Fake Accounts
I get followed by a creepy fake account on a daily basis. Sometimes they even leave comments or direct message me.
In my case, it’s mostly accounts of fake men (doctors, military men, fathers, pet owners) who are interested in connecting with me. Ugh.
Sometimes, it people pushing their brand and agenda in a way that is obviously spammy and not always appropriate. No one really wants me to represent their jewelry brand, advertise cellphone deals, or sell miracle cures… they just want to coax me into joining their pyramid scheme.
–> something that I’m too old and wise to fall for, but might not be as obvious to a 13-year-old.
2 Rude and inappropriate comments
Rude and inappropriate comments are more of a weekly thing, than a daily thing for me. (Though maybe if I was “better” at social media they would become a daily thing).
Here’s how I deal with inappropriate comments:
- If a comment seems weird, spammy, or completely off-base… then I delete the comment and block the account.
- When it seems to come from someone dealing with distress (usually anxiety or anger), I take the time for a reassuring and respectful reply. Then a week or two later, I delete the exchange. We have enough unhappiness in the world, I think it’s fine to curate positivity. (Here’s a blog post that came out of one such exchange. My personal philosophy is that kindness needs to be key to all interactions).
- If the comment is rude to someone else or generally inappropriate, then I block the person and delete the comment. (Or if it’s on one of my community groups, then I send them the community rules and set approval requirements for their future posts.)
3. The fake veneer of viral content
I think that one of the biggest pitfalls of social media is that viral content
- looks like it’s really easy to make
- and it seems like winning the lottery — all about good luck.
This makes tweens and teens think that being an influencer is something they can do while living a normal, happy life and attending school.
For 99.999% of creators, it isn’t.
Nearly all creators (& influencers) spend A LOT of time creating content.
Twice I’ve tried to hire out for social media help… and both times it wasn’t worth the money. Creating content is hard. There’s no easy way around that.
(Successful creators work 9 to 5… and often 7 days a week. Many employ teams of people to help them create and edit content).
4. Hacked accounts and duplicate accounts
I know a LOT of people who have had their social media accounts hacked. I also know quite a few people and businesses that have had their accounts duplicated. If you have two Aunt Marys on your Facebook feed, then it’s something to be concerned about.
Honestly, it’s so rampant that I almost wonder if social media companies are allowing it to happen just so people will pay the monthly fee for a verified checkmark!
Luckily, there are easy and free solutions:
- Setting your privacy settings to not-public will prevent duplication. (Strangers won’t be able to see your photos or your contacts).
- Two-factor authentication will prevent your accounts from being hacked. I recommend setting it up for everything from bank accounts to your email login. It’s just safer.
Ground rules for teens on social media
Probably the best way to keep your kids off of social media is to make it part of your work life and then loudly complain about it on a daily basis. This works best if you also make fun of fake accounts and force your kids to wait an extra 30 minutes for their dinner while you set up the perfect shot.
If my kids wanted to be on social media I would set up a few ground rules:
- Do not use your real name. At some point in time, an employer will google you and you don’t want them finding anything your friends may have posted about you online. (My kids are not named Max and Una… even on my blog they get the right to privacy).
- Make sure their accounts are restricted and double-check the privacy settings to ensure that nothing can be shared. This prevents them from being contacted by spammy accounts and prevents their photos and videos from being remixed without their consent.
- Set up two-factor authentication to prevent their accounts from being hacked. In fact, you should use two-factor authentication for ALL your accounts.
- Set a screen time limit and don’t let them keep their phones in their rooms. This works best if you leave a few interesting graphic novels or books around to distract them from their phones.