Online Safety: Talking to Kids About Privacy on Social Media

Updated on: November 15, 2022

Social media is a great way to communicate in both personal and professional scenarios. However, parents should make sure to talk to their kids about online safety. Here are Tutor Doctor’s tips for maintaining privacy on social media!

1. Respect. Cyberbullying has become one of the main forms of harassment children are subjected to in schools. Teaching children respect and empathy is a crucial factor towards the fight against bullying. The most important component is communication – whether your child is being bullied themselves or has witnessed another student being harassed, they should feel comfortable telling you right away. Parents can help to emphasize open lines of communication by encouraging honesty and transparency when talking with their kids.

2. Permanence. When it comes to social media, it’s best to remember this golden rule – don’t post something that might come back to haunt you later. This is especially important for kids and teens, as the last thing they want is to spoil a future job opportunity because of something irresponsible they posted decades prior. Social media isn’t just about having fun with friends – potential employers may look into your internet history as a judge of character. Parents can help by setting boundaries for kids on what is appropriate to share (and what isn’t) in a public setting like social media.

3. Anonymity. How we identify ourselves on the internet is a fascinating topic as the guidelines for “best practice” have changed dramatically over the years. Not too long ago, the generally agreed upon rule for online safety was to never use your real name on the internet. Even in the early days of social media (anyone remember Myspace?), accounts were all based on username handles. Today, things are much different – YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok all allow displaying your full name, and many professional networking services (LinkedIn, for example) encourage it. While we certainly see the benefits of using our real names to identify ourselves on the web, it’s also easy to understand why this might not be a good idea for kids and teens to share openly. Luckily, most social media websites still allow users to go by handles, so parents should remind their kids to use a nickname!

4. Safety. If your child sees something harmful or obscene on social media, you should report it to the social media network right away. This includes cyberbullying and harassment, as social networks have a zero-tolerance policy for this behavior. We recommend parents familiarize themselves with the “report” button.

5. Reality. It pains us to bring this up, but violence at school is a serious problem these days. So many perpetrators of school violence are quick to share “red flags” on social media well in advance of their heinous acts. Let your child know they should tell you immediately if they see any content from a fellow student at their school that glorifies weaponry or violence. And most importantly, if you ever become concerned someone could be in immediate danger, don’t even hesitate – call the police and let local law enforcement deal with it. Social media threats are taken extremely seriously in today’s day and age, so it’s always better to err on the side of safety.

6. Boundaries. Lastly, encourage your children not to interact with strangers or people they don’t already know in real life. Kids and teens should never, ever agree to meet someone they met online without parental supervision. In most cases, a good rule of thumb is to stick to people known in real life – classmates, teachers, family, and friends!

To learn more great tips on social media safety, check out Tutor Doctor’s guide for parents!