Recent data reveals that over 95% of kids between the ages of 3 to 17 have internet access at home. While the majority of children still access the internet from computers, a growing percentage of kids browse the web exclusively from their smartphones.
Smartphones have had many positive impacts. However, they’ve made social media monitoring more challenging for parents. Parents are already under pressure to provide kids with smartphones. Now, they have to contend with new apps that may not be appropriate for children.
Parents need a brand new suite of tools to protect kids online. Check out these trusted tips and tools for monitoring social media.
Stay Updated On New Social Networks
As a parent, you have a lot of ground to cover. It’s even harder to track social media activity. For example, Instagram used to reveal your followers’ likes, but not anymore.
Parents have to be online detectives without smothering. It’s a bit of a tightrope walk. Plus, new social media networks are popping up every year. New social media sites grow like wildfire. TikTok is a great example of this phenomenon.
The average age range of TikTok’s userbase is 16-24. That’s pretty young. Even more concerning, more than 32% of users are between 10 and 19 years old.
Many parents, grandparents, and guardians are still unaware of TikTok’s impact on kids. Even worse, they don’t realize how easy it is to sign up for an account. That’s why it’s crucial to stay informed about the latest social media trends affecting children.
Kids also enjoy Snapchat, which has a younger average userbase age. Plus, “snaps” disappear after 30 days.
Follow the Latest Messaging Apps
New social media websites aren’t your only concern as a parent. Messaging apps also pose serious monitoring obstacles. Smartphones are making these challenges even harder.
Search engines and app stores are filled to the brim with messaging apps. Kik is one popular example. There are also anonymous messaging apps like Telegram, iMessage, and YikYak.
Since most social media networks don’t have real age verification methods, kids can sign up for messaging apps under fake accounts. All kids have to do is provide fake birth dates to bypass age verification.
Easy age verification is also a problem for kids’ chat rooms online. Unfortunately, the web is littered with children’s chat rooms with little security. Some of these chat rooms have guest logins that allow anyone (of any age) to chat with kids.
While these chat rooms may seem harmless on the surface, many bad actors abuse these rooms’ lenient security to exploit children. There have been many investigations into online children’s chat rooms. Unfortunately, many of these chat rooms are still online despite evidence.
Currently, the U.S. doesn’t have robust legislation regulating kids’ online activity. All online behavior is hard to regulate, and it’s becoming more challenging as young people discover the dark web. Therefore, parents must be on the lookout for disturbing online behavior at all times.
Beware of the Dark Web
Did you know you can’t see the majority of the internet? There’s also a tiny fraction of the web that’s even more hidden. The vast majority of the internet is called the deep web. The URLs you do see are part of the clear web, also known as the surface web. The clear web only represents 10% of the internet.
The deep web consists of URLs that aren’t indexed in search engines. These links include bank login pages, work desk login pages, and other password-protected web pages. Site owners can also deindex webpages from search engines if they wish.
You’re already getting a sense of the dangers lurking on the regular web. Thankfully, most kids aren’t looking for innocuous deep web links either. It’s that tiny fraction of the web you have to worry about.
That tiny fraction accounts for about 5% of the internet, and it’s called the dark web. It’s so hidden that it requires a special web browser called Tor. Not even Google Chrome can access the dark web.
Why should the dark web matter to parents?
Kids are living in the most technologically advanced era of all time. Children are growing up with the urban legends of the dark web. It’s only a matter of time until curiosity takes over.
All kids have to do is download a Tor web browser for their computer or phone. Moreover, Tor browsers anonymize IP addresses. Users can’t be traced, which is why it’s such a hotbed for illegal activity.
Dark web marketplaces like the Silk Road revealed how far things go in the deep recesses of the internet. People have access to any illegal product or service they want. Plus, users pay with cryptocurrencies, hiding their paper trails.
Have 24-Hour Access to Your Kid’s Phone
It is very easy for kids to sign up for whatever app or social network they want. That’s why you need just as much access to their phones as they have.
For starters, you should set the passwords for your child’s social media accounts, apps, and devices. You could also use a password management app to store every password. Google Chrome also comes with a password manager.
However, password managers aren’t just for accessing your child’s accounts. They also protect your kid’s accounts and devices from outside hackers. Password managers create and store unique, hard-to-guess passwords for each device and account.
You should know your child’s phone inside and out. Treat it like your phone. If your phone has a device locator, your kid’s smartphone should have one too.
Install a GPS app that maps your child’s location. You’ll know where they are at all times (and when they turn the phone off!)
Does your smartphone have antivirus software? Your child’s phone should have the same protection. Some antivirus apps feature even more parental controls for parents.
These monitoring features are essential for parents, but there’s a problem. You can’t possibly monitor your kid’s phone activity all day. What do you do when you’re asleep or at work?
Fortunately, you can install screen time apps that limit your kids’ screen time during certain hours. You set the screen time schedule. During off-hours, the smartphone restricts internet access.
Furthermore, you can password protect your screen time app, preventing your kids from logging on completely.
Remember to password protect your home’s primary computer too. Once they lose smartphone access, your child may hop on the main computer. Similar to smartphones, you can install password managers that prevent kids from logging onto the web when you’re not there.
Social Media Monitoring Tips for Games
Children are more likely to download games with malicious software too. Thankfully, antivirus apps protect kids and parents from game malware. However, these apps don’t protect kids from other in-game features.
A game doesn’t have to be riddled with malware to cause damage. Some games have in-app purchases that can drive up your credit card bill in minutes.
Other games have unmonitored chat rooms, similar to the chat rooms discussed earlier in this article. Unbeknownst to you, your child could be talking to a stranger while you assume they’re playing a game.
Don’t just look at the age requirement for games. Play through the games yourself. You’ll be surprised by what’s hiding in children’s games, also known as “easter eggs.”
1. Regularly Check In With Your Kids
You can only do so much. If your kids feel too smothered by your social media monitoring, they may find alternative ways to get online.
How do you keep your kids safe and not push them away?
2. Communication is key
Take openly and honestly with your kids about social media. Discuss tough topics like cyberbullying, underage grooming practices, and web camera safety.
One overlooked topic of discussion is online friendships.
Of course, parents want kids to have friends. However, online friendships easily slip under parents’ radars. These friends could have a dangerous influence on your child.
Worse yet, an adult could be posing as a child or teen on your kid’s favorite social media website.
Check-in regularly to ensure your child isn’t engaging in harmful behavior outside of your purview.
3. Think Like a Marketer
Do you have multiple children? That’s a lot of social networks, apps, devices, and websites to monitor.
It’s time to think like a marketer!
Marketers use social media management tools to monitor real-time activity, like followings, DMs, Instagram likes, and more info. Even better, you can monitor multiple accounts from several social networks.
There are many monitoring tools on the market. Look for apps that have features parents need.
For example, you may want alerts when your kids’ receive DMs. A large dashboard would help you identify and report suspicious accounts quicker.
4. Create a Safe Online Space for Kids
The internet can feel like the wild wild west. Thankfully, you can make the web a safer place for your kids with social media monitoring.
Keep this guide close by as you protect your family online. Don’t forget to visit the blog for more valuable information for parents.