Today’s youth are connected and online in more ways than any generation before them. Their digital footprint is massive, and with good reason. An online presence helps build their personal brand, drive job opportunities, develop new skills and even land an internship. But all that connectedness can also have its pitfalls. With so much of their digital information out there for the world to see, parents and guardians need to take extra precautions to protect their future generation from unwanted online activity. Whether it’s a risky selfie or an embarrassing video clip, youth are prone to unwise decisions online. The abundance of social media platforms gives today’s young people the opportunity to explore different interests - which is wonderful! But with so many public profiles available for anyone willing to look, there are potential dangers lurking around every corner.


Know your apps

Apps are convenient tools when they are used appropriately and safely. But when they are misused, apps can create additional digital risks. - Apps that track your location - Some apps will track your location, which can be helpful when you need to be on a certain schedule. However, sharing your location with an app may create an unnecessary risk. Be aware of each app you have on your device and its reason for needing your location. - Apps that use your data - Some apps ask for permission to access your data, like your social media accounts. Be careful when granting access to these apps. Before you allow an app to use your data, read the fine print to see what it will do with it. - Apps that allow strangers to connect with you - Some apps are meant for connecting with friends, while others are for connecting with anyone. Be wary of apps that allow strangers to connect with you because they could be dangerous.


Set clear rules and consequences

Rules and consequences are essential to building a healthy digital environment. Establish rules that work best for your family, and discuss the potential consequences that come with breaking them. - Rules for mobile devices - What hours do your youth have access to the internet? What websites are they allowed to visit? What apps are they allowed to download? Take time to create rules that work best for your family and device. - Rules for social media and online platforms - In addition to creating rules for your family, you may want to consider creating rules for social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram. Facebook, for example, has Community Standards that outline the rules for using the site. - Rules for email accounts - If your child has their own email account, take the time to create rules for using that account. Make sure your child understands that you have the right to check their email account at any time.


Safeguard your child’s device with app restrictions

App restrictions allow you to control what kinds of apps are available on your child’s device. This feature is available on most operating systems, and it may be a helpful tool to curb dangerous apps. - Limit device usage - If your child is spending too much time on their device, try setting a limit on how much time is allowed per day. You can also set a time when their device is shut off. - Block specific apps - If you see that your child is spending too much time on certain apps, you can block them from using the device. There are also apps that can block specific apps from being used. - Restrict social media apps - If your child is under 13 and signed up for Facebook, you can use app restrictions to prevent them from accessing the site. Some apps, like Instagram, also have age requirements.


Monitor and block social media platforms with software

If you want to block specific social media platforms, you may want to consider using software to monitor and block activity. There are a lot of tools that offer this service, along with other features like parental monitoring and device blocking. - Keep an eye on friend requests - If your child is on Facebook, you can keep an eye on friend requests with a parental monitoring app. Some monitoring tools allow you to see who has requested to be a friend to your child. Other tools let you see who is viewing your child’s profile. - Monitor online activity - If your child is using another social media platform, you can monitor their online activity with a parental monitoring tool. Some monitoring software can remotely log into your child’s device and access their social media accounts. - Block problematic sites - If your child is using a specific social media platform, you can block it with software. You can also block several sites at once using a single tool.


Summing up

The best way to protect your child from the dangers of social media is to be involved in their online activity. With parental monitoring software, you can keep track of what they are doing online and make sure they aren’t falling into dangerous territory. At the same time, you need to make sure they are getting the most out of their digital experience. This means setting clear expectations for how they should be using social media. It also means setting boundaries when they are offline, too.