Although this decision prioritizes the mental health of tweens, Facebook's responsibility for the wellbeing of its users remains hazy
In March, Facebook confirmed a rumor that they were developing a version of Instagram for kids under 13 that included parent monitoring features. Earlier this week, under pressure from critics and lawmakers, they announced they were pausing the project “to work with parents, experts, policymakers and regulators, to listen to their concerns, and to demonstrate the value and importance of this project for younger teens online today.”
Through results from its own research, Facebook is well aware that its Instagram product has a toxic effect on tween mental health, making body image issues worse for one in three teen girls. In its own defense, Facebook says, “The reality is that they're already online, and with no foolproof way to stop people from misrepresenting their age, we want to build experiences designed specifically for them, managed by parents and guardians.”
There are two sides to the story. Would it be good to have a version of Instagram for kids under 13 and parental controls for kids 13 and older? Does Facebook have a responsibility to make sure its products aren’t harming its users?
No matter how Facebook proceeds with product development and how lawmakers guide that process, it’s up to parents to teach kids how to be safe on social media. Here are a few ways to get started.
Tips to keep kids safe on social media
1. Establish clear rules
Keep an open conversation going about your expectations for their social media use and presence. Show them trust, but don’t let them forget that you care about the decisions they choose to make.
2. Share and discuss news
Talk about the ill consequences of other people who made poor decisions online or got scammed on social media. Ask your child what they would do in the same situation.
3. Help them (safely) get started
Set up their account together. Show them how to create a strong password and security answers, choose a private or limited account, and remind them to never show their physical address to anyone.
4. Model healthy behavior
You can’t expect kids to limit their time and attention on highly addictive social media channels if you aren’t doing the same. If you are posting unhealthy content, they will, too.
5. Prioritize open communication
Make it a habit to have ongoing, open conversations with your kids about both online and offline safety. That way, you can show trust by not personally spying on every post, but still rest assured they are safe.