Guest blogpost by Alexa, a Child and Adolescent Therapist
Social media has become increasingly more popular with children over the last few years. But as the popularity increases, as do the risks. One of the biggest risks of children using social media platforms is the exposure of inappropriate content. This inappropriate content includes but is not limited to explicit videos, images, or pop-up ads, along with information directed to adults and inaccurate information. When seeing this type of media, children are often confused, scared, or intrigued to continue clicking, furthering their exposure.
As a child and adolescent therapist, I hear so often from kids about shows or movies that would be considered inappropriate for their age and development. While exploring this with them, I often find that these are seen through Youtube. Now, you may think “but I have parental controls on their devices” or “they only use Kids Youtube”, and although these are good things, they appear to not be enough to protect kiddos from inappropriate exposure. For example, it is common that even on Kids Youtube, there are videos that slip through the app’s age restrictions, that consist of children’s cartoon characters in adult situations, promotion of self-harm, fake explicit clips of tv shows such as Peppa Pig, and videos of violence and death. A recent example is a new show on Netflix, Squid Games. Although this is an adult show, filled with violence, gore, and death, children are increasingly becoming aware of it through social media through social apps like Roblox and Tiktok. Even on Kids Youtube, there has been viral content involving Squid Game themes through children’s characters acting out scenes from the show, drawing tutorials, Roblox videos, etc. This is just one horrifying example of how easily children can be innocently exposed.
Monitoring your child’s internet and social media use can be very difficult, especially due to accidental searches and exposure through devices not owned by you, such as at school or friends’. That being said, here are some helpful tips for at home to protect your child and promote internet safety.
- Prepare your child and monitor closely: Children are going to be exposed at some point to things they do not understand and may not be appropriate for them. It is important to prepare children for this by encouraging them to come to you for any curiosities they have or if they see something that is scary. It is also important to sit with them while they are using their devices or make sure you are at least in the same room with them. Encourage them to explain what they are playing or what they are watching with you. This can also build a connection with them, as you show you are interested in their interests.
- Set time limits: The more time children are spending on their devices the more likely they are to come across something inappropriate. Reducing screen time will be helpful in not only limiting their access to this media but studies have also shown that it leads to better physical health, improved social connections, increased focus, and can be a mood booster.
- Block and restrict access: As stated before, just using kid approved apps and games is not always enough to protect them. Changing settings, adding filters and age restrictions, setting passwords, and removing search engines can assist with better preventing inappropriate content and searches. Below you can find PDF’s of how to better set your privacy settings on a tablet as well as on Youtube Kids.
The dangers of social media and the internet will always be here, however by having a better understanding of those risks and becoming more prepared you can decrease the exposure of explicit content to your children while promoting positive online safety habits. A resource I recommend for more information on this topic as well as additional support and ways to keep kids safe online, please visit https://www.internetmatters.org/.