Most kids over the age of ten these days have a smartphone. They use their phones to game, to use apps like Snapchat and TikTok, and generally to connect with their friends. In theory, there is nothing wrong with kids being on social media, and having access to streaming platforms, YouTube and TikTok. However, if you, as a parent, aren’t careful and don’t monitor the content they see, this can end badly. If they begin watching violent, extremist or overtly sexual content, their algorithm will continue to feed them images of this kind – and soon, it’ll be most of what they see online. This can harm their outlook on life, their development, and generally be detrimental to their social skills and wellbeing. Kids don’t see things with the same amount of context as we do, so if they see harmful content, it can be highly damaging for them.
So how do you keep your kids from seeing harmful content online? Here are three helpful tips.
1. Monitoring Their Smartphone Activity
On giving your child a smartphone, you should do so on the condition that they will willingly share their activity with you. Children have a right to privacy just like anybody else, and so there should be limits to this – their private conversations with friends, for example, should remain private. However, when it comes to posting on social media and watching YouTube videos, you should have a clear rule that you must be able to check up on what they are posting online.
If this doesn’t work out, you can monitor their social media accounts yourself. Some parents create an alias account which gives them access to their kids’ profiles; others will hire a hacker, through a reputable company, who can do the digging for them.
2. Explain Algorithms To Them
If your child uses their smartphone to watch videos and research subjects that interest them, their algorithm will be targeting them with similar stories and information. Explain this to them. There are documentaries on the subject, such as Netflix’s The Social Dilemma, which details how your phone targets you with information it knows you will like. This will help them apply context to what they see online.
3. Reduce Their Screen Time
One way to reduce the chance of your kids seeing harmful content online is to reduce the time they spend on their phones. Many people in the tech industry do not allow their kids to have their phones and laptops in their bedrooms, or past a certain hour of the day, which is reserved for family time. This is a great idea to increase bonding, family games, movie nights or activities outdoors. Our phones can easily take over our lives, creating issues with mental health and generally making us lazier and less sociable. Set the example by participating in this screen time limit too – you will feel better for it!
Kids are always going to see things online – this is beyond your total control. You can, however, reduce the harms of this by implementing these helpful tips in your family routine!