Ask Hope: Safety
My 9 year old son wants to sign up for the app TikTok that everyone is on at school. Is that appropriate for his age?
Thank you for asking such an important question. Kids are often interested in signing up for the latest and greatest social media app that their friends are on at school, but it is important to put their safety first. Most social media apps like TikTok, Facebook, and Snapchat have a minimum age of 13 and if the child is between the ages of 14 – 18 they require parental consent. However often when I talk about digital citizenship with my 10 year old students, they admit that they are on at least one social media app. There are so many terms and conditions on technology that we often just hit accept without really paying attention. But there are many reasons to slow down, because the dangers of social media are real. Many of these apps collect private data, provide opportunities for cyber bullying, and allow interaction between strangers and your child.
So what should you do when your child comes home excited about a new app or website?
- Review the terms and conditions with them. Often kids don’t realize that there are minimum ages for the app.
- Research the app together on sites like Commonsense Media or Internet Matters. Read about concerns or experiences that others have had on the app.
- Discuss that www stands for world wide web. This means when your child is on the internet they may encounter people from all over the world. You can explain that just like you wouldn’t leave them alone in a strange country or city, you will not let them navigate the internet alone.
- Try to find an age appropriate alternative. There are some sites that allow entry into social media but have more parental control like Roblox and Facebook Messenger for Kids.
- Consider parental controls. Most devices and internet providers allow you to set limits – including setting specific hours kids can be online, what apps and websites they can visit or download, and certain data and information that can be shared. Here is some information about parental controls from some common providers: Verizon, ATT, and Sprint.
Hope Mulholland is the iCAMP Curriculum Director and a Technology Integration Specialist.