Guide for parents on protecting your children’s privacy on social media

Guide for parents on protecting your children’s privacy on social media

Many parents worry about their children being on social media. As well as the high-profile media stories on the potential harm it could be causing young people in relation to their mental health, there can also be privacy concerns. Who can see your child’s profile on social media? Can they find out your child’s location? Who can message your child or connect with them on social media? Can their profiles be found on search engines if someone searches their name? In this blog article, we overview how you can help your child or teen make sure that they understand the privacy settings on various social media platforms, and how you can help them to protect themselves. In our experience, this always works best when you talk through the importance of privacy online with your child and go through any settings changes together on their device(s).

Facebook privacy settings

Facebook is falling in popularity with young people generally, but many teenagers are still regular users, so we wanted to overview the main settings that can be checked to maximise your child’s safety. The Facebook privacy settings can be found under Settings>Privacy if you’re using Facebook on a desktop computer and under Settings & Privacy>Privacy shortcuts on the Facebook app. The mobile Facebook app will walk you through each section of your privacy settings, but the desktop version is a little different and may look something like the below:

Picture 1 Guide for privacy

It’s important that your child thinks about who they want to be able to contact, and be contacted by, via Facebook. If they are posting publicly, that means that anyone, anywhere in the world can potentially view anything they post on the platform, including any check-ins that could indicate their location. We suggest limiting it to ‘friends’ in general. Each individual post will be set to that by default but can be changed as needed. If your child doesn’t want anyone to be able to Google them and find their Facebook profile that way, the search engine setting should be set to ‘No’. It’s also worth having a discussion with your child about the ‘block’ function on Facebook, which lets you block specific users from seeing the things you post, tagging you or adding you as a friend. You can also block messages from specific people, which also includes Facebook Messenger.

Instagram privacy settings

Instagram’s privacy settings are less complicated compared to Facebook’s, however there are still several privacy options that can be found under your profile privacy settings. These can be accessed by clicking on the profile icon (head and shoulders on the bottom right), then the three lines in the top right, followed by the settings icon right at the bottom and finally Privacy. It should look something like the below:

Picture 2 Guide for Privacy

Here, you can easily choose whether your posts are public (default) or private, where only your followers can see them. Each section has its own settings e.g. under ‘comments’ you can choose who is allowed to comment on your posts, block users that you don’t want commenting on your posts, hide offensive comments or choose to hide comments that contain certain words you can add manually. You can also choose whether people can tag you in their pictures or whether you need to approve tags, as well as who can see your Instagram Stories. You can create a ‘Close Friends’ list, meaning only the people on that list will see any Stories that you post. You can disallow ‘resharing’ of your Stories if you don’t want other people to be able to share your posts. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that people can always use their phone’s screengrab feature to capture a still photo of any story. You may want your child’s Instagram account to disable the ‘show activity status’ function. Their activity status will tell accounts that your child follows or people that they message when they were last active on the platform.

Snapchat

Snapchat’s privacy settings are even simpler than the first two platforms mentioned above. The screen will look something like the below:

Picture 3 Guide for privacy

Here, you and your child can change who is allowed to contact them through the app, who can view their stories (all of their friends by default) and, importantly, whether anyone can see their location. Disabling their location through this setting will mean that people who follow them won’t be able to see where they are through the app.

TikTok

TikTok is a video creation and sharing app that is fairly new on the scene compared to the other social media platforms mentioned above. However, it is becoming increasingly popular with children and teens. There are quite a few different settings that can help you and your child to protect their privacy whilst using the app. Access these settings by clicking on ‘Me’ (bottom right) and the three dots in the top right-hand corner – then selecting privacy and safety. You should see something like the below:

Picture 4 Guide for privacy

It’s relatively straightforward to choose who you want to be able to see and interact with your child’s profile. You can also block accounts here or filter out offensive comments. An interesting feature of TikTok is the Digital Wellbeing settings, which you can access from the main privacy and safety menu. Here, you can choose to set a limit to the amount of time your child can use TikTok – called Screen Time Management, which requires a pin code to disable. You can also set TikTok into Restricted Mode, which aims to filter out content that might not be appropriate for younger users of the app. Family Safety Mode can also be accessed here. This feature allows parents to set a limit on family watch time, limit who can send messages to your child, and apply the content filter mentioned previously. The young person will need to link their TikTok account to the parent’s account to enable this feature.

Other ways to help protect your child on social media

In addition to tweaking the privacy settings together with your child on their social media platforms, you may want to consider using Wing. Wing is an app that has been designed to provide a layer of protection for children and teens online, in relation to their use of social media and messaging apps.

Wing is powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and is able to detect concerning posts and messages that might pose a threat to a child’s wellbeing. Wing provides regular wellbeing reports for parents on how their child may be feeling, based on their online interactions, without invading the child’s privacy by spying and showing the parent all of their activity.

If Wing detects something serious that may require intervention, known as a ‘threat’, parents will be alerted so that they can then speak to their child and discuss what has happened. Wing is designed to offer parents some peace of mind that their child has a layer of protection when online, whilst still allowing the young person to make their own decisions and express themselves without feeling spied on.