Facebook is the world’s biggest social network. Every day, more than a billion people use the service to post status updates, photos and videos, or just to see what their friends are up to.
Children are only allowed to join once they’re aged 13 or over. But in reality, lots of people younger than that use the service. This is because Facebook can’t check how old you are, it only asks you not to lie. Hence it’s simple for younger users to sign up.
Facebook’s popularity makes it a great way to share information, but it also brings inherent dangers. As such, it’s important your children stay safe while using it.
Connecting with people
Facebook is really a big friends’ network – the more friends you have, the more you’ll see, whether it’s status updates, links to articles, or photos and videos. Anyone can send a friend request to anyone – you don’t need to have met the person in real life, or even know about them. As long as you can search for them, you can send a friend request.
However, you don’t have to accept every friend request you receive. If you do accept, they’ll be able to see your posts, comment on them and ‘like’ them. And you’ll be able to do the same to their posts. If you don’t accept the request, the person won’t be notified, they just won’t get access to your profile.
You can set your profile so anyone can see it without sending a friend request. But this isn’t advised for safety reasons.
Dangers of Facebook
The more people that use a social network, the higher chance there is that some of them will be dangerous. Seeing as Facebook is the world’s most popular social network, and it’s so easy to connect with people, there are many dangers to be aware of.
Grooming: Unless they take proper precautions, your child might be at risk of being contacted by sexual predators. Often these predators pose as other children in order to befriend kids, then build up a trusting relationship. Once this is established, the predator might convince them to send explicit photos of themselves, or to meet up in person where they can abuse them.
Oversharing: Unless they’re taught the dangers, children could play into predators’ hands by oversharing photos of themselves. There’s also the danger of the child being exposed to explicit content.
These may be more traditional ‘playground’ dangers, but because of the exposure of the web, and the fact photos and updates can be stored forever, they could have far worse repercussions for your child.
Internet Matters, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping children stay safe online, has advice for parents whose children use social media.
Tips to stay safe on Facebook
Facebook includes built-in tools to help you protect your child’s privacy. Take some time to set them up and secure your child’s Facebook account.
1: Who can see their posts?
If your child has given their age as between 13 (the minimum age for using Facebook) and 18, their default setting will be to share posts only with friends. However, these friends could share your child’s posts with their friends, so private and personal information can quickly spread.
Click the padlock icon in the top right of the screen, then select Privacy Check-up dinosaur.
Use the drop-down menu to adjust who sees what your child posts. We’d advise selecting ‘Friends’.
2: Control friend requests
You can stop them receiving friend requests from strangers, too.
Click the padlock icon, and select ‘Who can contact me?’
Change who can send them friend requests from ‘Everyone’ to ‘Friends of Friends’.
Remember to remind them never to accept friend requests from strangers.
If a friend tags your child in a post, that post will be added to your child’s Timeline and shared with their friends.
The Timeline Review section lets your child review a post every time they’re tagged and, if they wish, to not add it to their Timeline (though it will be added to the Timeline of whoever tagged them).
Click the drop-down arrow at the top right and select Settings, then Timeline and Tagging from the left menu.
Look for ‘Review tags people add to your own posts before the tags appear on Facebook’ and select ‘Enabled’.
4: Location Tagging
Turning off location tagging will also help keep your child safe, as it won’t publish their location along with a post. To turn it off on your child’s phone, you’ll have to go into the phone’s settings.
5: Create friend lists
Friend lists allow you to share different information with different groups of people – maybe you could have one for their ‘School Friends’, and one for ‘Family’, for example.
Hover over Friends on the left-hand side and select ‘More’ when it appears.
Click Create New List, give it a name and add the names of friends you’d like to include.
Click Create, and you’re done.
You can add or remove friends whenever you like in the ‘Manage List’ section.
To post just to the recipients of the list, select the drop-down menu and scroll down to find the list.
6: Report bullying
If your child is bullied through Facebook, it’s best to report it through the Social Reporting feature. This is found using the drop-down arrow in the corner of any post under Report Post.
Block the bully so they can’t contact your child again. Click the three dot icon on the bully's Timeline and then select the Block option.
8: App privacy
You should also tweak the privacy settings for any apps and games used through Facebook.
Click the drop-down arrow at the top right and select Settings, then Apps in the main menu.
Click an app to change its privacy settings, or tap the cross to remove anything not being used.
9: Deactivate and delete the account
If all else fails, you can deactivate your child’s account.
Click the drop-down menu, select Settings - Security and Deactivate your account. This will suspend all their Facebook activity.
To permanently delete their account, go to the drop-down menu ‘Help’, and type “How do I permanently delete my account?” Then follow the link to submit your request.
This will deactivate the account for 14 days; if it isn’t used within that period, it will be deleted forever.
Is there anything else parents can do?
It’s important to have a dialogue with your children in which you make clear the dangers of Facebook. Not only is it vital they’re aware of the risks to themselves, they should make sure they don’t bully, mistreat or subject to peer pressure anyone else using the service.
Encourage them to think before they post something, and stress that they should never send explicit photos of themselves to anyone, friends included. Most importantly of all, make sure they let you know if they see anything untoward or threatening on Facebook, and create an environment in which they feel comfortable approaching you about potentially sensitive or embarrassing subject matter.
The photo sharing platform has quickly become a favourite of teenagers throughout the world, but do you really know the ins and outs of Instagram and how to keep your children safe when using the app?
If you have a child that is already regularly using social media apps and websites, or they are just starting to take an interest, it’s important that you understand what each app is, what they do and how to keep your child as safe as possible when using them.
What is Instagram?
Instagram is primarily a photo sharing and editing app that allows users to share photos taken from their phone with other followers across the platform. Like most social media platforms, Instagram is now available on smartphones and computers by using the Instagram app or website. This means that images used on the app have never been more accessible. Whilst it all seems innocent enough, and parents may be questioning the impact such an app could ever have on their child, with over 300 million monthly users and 9% of teenage girls stating they have been bullied via Instagram, it’s never been more important to think about their safety online.
Signing up to Instagram
If you have a teenage child, the odds are they already have Instagram downloaded onto their phone or tablet. Instagram requires no identity verification and is completely free to download, which means there is absolutely no permission needed to create an account. As with most online social media platforms, Instagram have put an age limit of 13 years into place, however your child can get around this by simply entering false details. If you suspect your child who is under the age of 13 has an account, you can report their profile to Instagram and they will look into the matter.
If your child of any age has an Instagram account, then it is important that you are open and discuss the privacy of their content with them. By setting limits and restrictions on the type of content they can post and agreeing to occasionally review their account, you put yourself in the best position to ensure that they aren't posting or receiving images that are inappropriate.
Setting a password
It’s crucial to choose a secure password, avoid common words, birthdays or cities. Use a mixture of numbers and letters to keep the account as safe as possible. It’s important to help your child understand the risks posed by hackers or strangers getting hold of their information. Encourage your child not to share their password with their friends. Even if they mean no harm, a password that is shared is much less secure.
Photo sharing settings
Instagram allows profiles to either be public or private. Anyone can view the images on public profiles, but only followers can view the images of private profiles. It is important to set your child's account to private if they are going to be uploading personal photos.
When discussing the uses of a social media app with your child, it’s important to suggest only allowing users to follow them if they know them and have met them in person. Your child should maintain their account themselves, but might be tempted to meet people via the app. Explain to your child that sometimes people use fake accounts on the internet, and that this is something to be wary of.
Explicit content on Instagram
It goes without saying that sharing explicit content on Instagram is against their policies and guidelines. Instagram state that not only is the sharing of such content prohibited on their app, but you should also think of the effects sharing explicit content can have on those involved. So what can be done to protect your child against these images and videos?
Report inappropriate content
If you or your child find explicit content on their Instagram feed or search results, the content can be reported directly to Instagram. You can report either the image or the entire account, or both. If someone your child knows has posted an explicit image, you can report this by itself. However, if you find an account with a history of posting explicit images you can instead report the entire Instagram profile.
It’s important that your child understands they can turn to you in the event of them finding explicit content. If the content involves either them or someone they know it’s important that they have an adult who can help contact the appropriate people to investigate the issue further. Under no circumstances should the content be shared with anyone else either on the app or away from it.
How to protect younger children
As we have mentioned, being open and candid with your child about their use of social media is by far the best policy. However, there will be times when they might be exposed to things you would rather they didn't see, so having a discussion about internet safety sooner rather than later is a good idea.
At all costs avoid using your child’s full name when setting up an account. Think of your child's interests and pick something that reflects them as a person and is unique to them.
Turn off Geo Tagging and Location Settings within the app. With these settings turned on your child’s photo may also display the location where it was taken, meaning followers can potentially find out their location.
You may be partial to a self-portrait yourself, but it’s important to explain that there is much more to social media apps than just posting photos of themselves or their friends. It’s important to ensure they understand not only the damage that can happen but also the wider implications of taking inappropriate selfies.
How to protect your teenage children
Whilst we have spoken about how to protect your younger children when using the Instagram app, we appreciate it can be more difficult to monitor your teenager’s use of the Internet and social media.
Talking to your teenager
Generally the best thing you can do with a teenage child is speak to them about social media and how they use their profiles. They might find this conversation awkward but if you approach the topic in the correct manner and appear genuinely interested in the positives they get from apps such as Instagram you will also easily learn of the potential negatives.
You will find that most teenagers will enjoy spending quality time with their parents and having a laugh about it too. Next time you all go out for a meal, why not ask them to take a selfie and join in part of the fun they get from the app? You can sit with them as they upload the photo, which will also allow you to take a sneak peak at things such as usernames and their profile image.
Follow social media and news
It doesn't take much searching to find out which celebrity has done what on social media. Keep an eye on the news, do a little Google search from time to time and find relevant news you can mention to your teenager. Ask them if they can show you a certain celebrity’s recent image upload you've heard all about. This will give you a great opportunity to again learn more about how they use Instagram but to also be able to judge the content they can see more clearly.
The photo-sharing network Snapchat has over 100 million users worldwide, nearly a quarter whom are under 18, so if you are a parent it’s highly likely your child will encounter Snapchat at some point.
Snapchat is a social network where users send ‘Snaps’ - short videos or photos to Snapchat friends. Users can also send ‘Chats’, these are text messages.
What makes Snapchat different to Facebook or Twitter is that Snaps and Chat have a lifespan of between 1 and 10 seconds, after which they’ll disappear.
Snapchat only launched in 2011, so it’s a relatively new phenomenon. Eight billion videos are viewed every day and it’s mostly used by young people - 60% of the monthly US audience is under 24, with 23% aged between 13 and 17 years old.
Discover how Snapchat works and learn the hazards every parents need to be aware of.
Enter an email, password and select a user name to get started. The account will need to be verified (to check you aren’t a bot) using a phone number or by selecting pictures.
Snapchat has a minimum age requirement of 13 years old, and users who enter a date of birth under 13 can’t set up an account.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to circumvent this using a fake date of birth and – as with Facebook – the service has no way of checking.
To send personal Snaps a phone needs a camera, although Chat messages can be sent without. You don’t need a camera to receive Snaps.
Snapchat needs internet access to work – either over wi-fi or using mobile data.
Connecting with people on Snapchat
To use Snapchat you need to add friends to the app’s contact list. These can be contacts from your phone’s address book, people you’ve found by searching for their user names (such as celebrities), users nearby and contacts made using Snapcode, a scannable barcode unique to each Snapchat user.
Your child can share a Snap or Chat with anyone from their friends list.
By default only users your child is friends with can send them Snaps. If a stranger tries to contact a user your child can choose to add them as a friend or not.
Snapchat is all about sharing photos and video, so like Facebook, children need to be careful what they take – and send - photos of.
Because Snapchat photos and videos disappear within seconds, you might think there’s less of a risk. Unfortunately many smartphones have a screenshot facility and there’s nothing to stop the recipient capturing an image of a Snap which will last forever and which can be shared online within seconds.
All social networks have potential problems. Your child could be at risk from bullying from people they connect with, they can be pressured into taking personal photos or they may be exposed to explicit content at an early age.
Social networks are an easy way to connect to people, but as they are essentially anonymous, it’s possible to build up a relationship with a stranger who isn’t who they say they are - for instance an adult posing as a child with the aim of grooming youngsters.
1: Limit who can contact your child: Go to the Settings menu (it looks like a cog) and look for Who Can Contact Me and select My Friends. This means only people your child has added can send them a Snap.
2: Restrict who can see a Story: A Story is a selection of Snaps from the last 24 hours that (by default) anyone your child is friends with can view. To specify exactly who can see it, go to Settings – View My Story and select Custom to choose who can view it.
3: Turn off Location Services: ‘Add Nearby’ let’s your child add friends based on their proximity using location services. This could allow your child to connect with total strangers who happen to be in the vicinity.
Go to the Settings menu, click Manage - Permissions and click Edit Permissions at the bottom. Look for Location and turn it from While Using to Never. When your child tries to access features like Add Nearby, they’ll be prompted to turn on Location Services.
4: Block: If someone is upsetting your child you can block them so they can’t contact them. Tap My Friends and click on the name. Tap the Settings icon and click Block. Click here for more on Deleting and Blocking. The person blocked won’t be notified.
5: Reporting content: If your child is sent unsuitable content, email safety@Snapchat.com to report it.
Snapchat doesn’t release copies of Snaps, automatically deleting them once they’ve been viewed or expired, while unopened messages are deleted after 30 days.
Twitter is definitely an app for older teens and adults, due to the easily found adult content. Another reason you might want your teen to be a little older before using Twitter is it’s problem with harassment and bullying, and due to it being a public forum.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a great way to follow and engage with your favourite celebrity, politician, journalist, sports hero, author, activist and more. It is also a great way to get on-the-spot news, and the latest updates on just about everything. Want to experience life on a remote farm or other exotic location, you can find daily updates from those types of accounts also.
Twitter is not for the fainthearted or naive. If you are going to use Twitter you need to understand how it works and what settings on your account you should tick or untick to make it a safer place. If you are selective with who you follow and are lucky enough not to fall victim to spammers or online bullies you may not ever really come across very adult or abusive content at all. Note: #Hastags on Twitter often get “Highjacked” by spammers and pornography. Anything that is “Trending” on Twitter will be inundated with loads of spammers pushing their own barrow by including the #Hashtag of the trending tweets.
You can create a user account with your own name or a pseudonym. You can only post or Tweet status updates with a limit of 140 characters (letters) or less. You can also Tweet, photos, links and videos to your followers. Some people post longer than 140 character updates by starting a Tweet thread or storm where they build full posts via Tweets linked to another.
You can actually use Twitter just as a news reader type app for getting the latest news and updates and never actually send or share a Tweet if you wish.
When Can Your Teen Start Using Twitter ?
Twitter is rated 13+ to comply with COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) Some might argue that due to the explicit porn and other 18+ Adult content Twitter should be rated 18+.
Should Parents Be Worried?
In my cyber safety talks in schools, I often survey my students about which apps they are using regularly, and I’d have to say, Twitter is one of the least popular social media apps amongst students. Unless they are not being truthful, I’d say there only a handful of students in any high school who use Twitter, virtually no primary school students use Twitter. Twitter is not as popular as other social media apps in Australia, and is less so amongst children. However it is so easy to find Adult content on Twitter that if your teens wants to find pornography, it they might just sign up to Twitter to do so easily, and you would never know they were seeing it.
What Should Parents Do?
As with all apps and online activity, parents need to supervise and have open conversations about the online world with their children and teens. Parental controls are great for younger teens and children, and you can certainly put a block on twitter through those controls, but at some point teens need to be given more responsibility and freedom online.
Tips For Using Twitter With More Safety
Make your account private, by ticking “Protect My Tweets” in Privacy/Settings so that only approved followers can see your Tweets
Set all the privacy settings to the strictest level
To avoid abuse, don’t engage in arguments on Twitter publicly, it can cause a “Pile On” of harassment.
Use the Mute button rather than block button so the abuser doesn’t know their Tweets are not being seen, thereby avoiding further confrontation behind your back
Use the Block button if you don’t care about 4. And don’t want the blocked person to see any of your tweets on your timeline, they will be blocked from following you. Note: they may see your tweets if they are shared (retweeted) by another person you follow however.
Turn off video auto play so that you moderate content before being exposed to it.
Untick “Receive Direct Messages From Anyone” in “Privacy/Settings”
Untick “Display media that may contain sensitive content” Note: doesn’t work all the time especially with picture and video content.
Mute notifications from people you don’t follow to cut out the spam and annoying replies
Mute any #hastags that enter your timeline you don’t want to see. Click on #Hashtag and select Mute.
Enable the Quality Filter in “Notifications” settings
Use login verifications in settings to protect your account from hacking
Untick “Add a location to my Tweets” to protect your whereabouts
Look for the Blue verification tick on profiles to make sure you are following the legitimate account
Note: Parental controls will not filter any content within Twitter, you have to block Twitter completely. There are no parental controls as such within Twitters settings. All Twitter users can apply filters to their twitter account by muting certain terms or filtering out “sensitive content”, but there is no guarantee if you help your child set these filters up that they won’t bypass the filters. More Here
We’re a not-for-profit organisation that has a simple purpose – to help keep children safe in the digital world.
As we’re backed by the UK’s most prominent internet industry players, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, and are supported by leading child online safety experts, we’re able to offer you the best advice and information available on tackling e-safety issues.
We’re passionate about keeping children safe online and are here to help you make the right decisions for you and your family. Whether you’re looking for information for the first time, or an old hand, our website has everything you need to help make your children’s online life fulfilling, fun and above all safe.
The rate of technological change means that our children’s world is changing rapidly – the challenges we face as parents today is so different to previous generations.
Our latest Pace of Change Research (2015) shows that 48% of parents believe their children know more about the Internet than they do and, and 78% of children agree. It also shows that children are spending significantly longer on the internet than their parents – and twice as long on social media. Many parents simply don’t know where to turn for advice.
of children aged 7-17 use a mobile phone to access the Internet¹
of 7-10 year olds talk about private things online that they do not share with others face to face²
Everything we do is designed to help keep children safe online. We do that by giving parents what they need to have great conversations with their children to:
Encourage them to behave safely online
Help them identify potential risks
Help limit the risks they may face online
Know what to do and where to go if they need help.
We’ve created information that will help you to learn about, talk about and deal with the top e-safety issues that your child may face:
Learn about it
Find out more about e-safety issues: what they are and if you should be concerned.
Talk about it
It’s not easy to talk about some issues, here you’ll find tips on how you can start these conversations.
Deal with it
You’ll find practical advice on what you can do and links to organisations that can provide additional help and guidance.