Tips for Monitoring Unhealthy Social Media

by Brenda Yoder, MA

Young Girls Operating Cell Phones with a Young Boy (10-14) Standing Behind Them
Social media and the internet are part of every child’s world.  As an educational counseling professional, I’m no longer shocked at how many young students have smart phones and access to harmful content in social media and the internet.  While many parents monitor what their children look at and what apps they have, parents cannot be with their children all the time.  

Children as young as eight and nine year-old have access to sexual content, inappropriate jokes and words that former generations were not aware of until later adolescence.  They’re also exposed to online predators, mean-spirited classmates, and individuals who don’t look out for the best interest of children.  Kids are not developmentally able to handle the large amounts of media content they receive in seconds. Information that is potentially harmful.

Cyber-bullying and sexual harassment is increasing for kids at younger ages through this technology.  Even the most mindful parents can’t monitor what is entering their child’s world through the internet.  But you can buffer how much exposure they have to harmful content, inappropriate material, and unhealthy people.

As an professional, I’m concerned about the number of children and teens who have unmonitored access to smart phones and tablets with internet.  Newer and newer social media sites are creeping into our children’s world that aren’t “the big ones” like Facebook and Twitter.  I’ve been shocked at what children have learned from unsupervised smartphones.   I recently heard my own son, a senior in high school say, “We’re about the only kids who don’t have smart phones, but it’s probably a good thing.”

Cyberbully and sexual harassment can’t be exclusively controlled.  Teaching your child some basic safety tips for social media and technology can help in reducing some, but not all, of the dangers around them.  Instruct your child to:

  • Be wise about who they give their cell phone number to.
  • Avoid putting their cell number on a social media profile.
  • Make wise choices about who they “friend” or “follow” in social media
  • Control who sees information on their wall and profile.
  • Allow parents to monitor their sites for safety.
  • Delete and not open unknown links in social media.
  • Be aware of spam messages and what they look like.
  • Think in “real time” {if this were a photo, message, or something your child shouldn’t read or look at in person, then they shouldn’t look at it or read it on a screen}
  • Monitor unwanted posts or messages in social media. Teach your child they can control what they read or accept. Block a person if necessary.
  • Avoid responding to unwanted texts, messages, or posts.
  • Avoid retaliating in cyberbulling. It’s not helpful to the situation and feeds the cycle of aggression.
  • Show unwanted, harassing texts or social media messages to a trusted adult if ignoring the behavior does not work.  Save the evidence, and contact local law enforcement if needed.
  • Use a home computer, tablet, or smart phone in a public location, available to an adult.
    • Don’t share social media passwords with friends.
    • Disable GPS tracking on smart phones.
    • Communicate with parents or other trusted adults about cyber relationships.
  • Tell a parent or trusted adult immediately when harassed.

Your child probably won’t embrace technology restrictions.  But the bully isn’t at the bus stop and pornographic images aren’t behind the candy counter any more.  Your children’s world is quickly changing and we need to be vigilant that our children are still safe and not exposed to what their minds naturally and ethically can’t handle.  As their parents, you are still the gatekeeper for their souls.