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How to Monitor Your Kids’ Social Media Usage

You know that your child leads a digital life, but do you know how extensive it is?

According to a Leger survey we conducted, 37% of parents with teenagers say that their teens are using the Internet for at least three hours per day. At least 55% of Canadian youth are on Facebook, 34% have a YouTube account, 27% use Skype, 27% have at least one gaming account, 25% are on Instagram, 20% are on Twitter, and 18% use SnapChat. Simply put, if you're a teenager in 2016, you probably socialize more online than face-to-face.

We've heard the concerns some in the media have expressed over just how much the digital world consumes kids today—and we have some of the same concerns—but the truth is that it's perfectly healthy and normal for kids to lead a digital life. After all, they need to learn how to express themselves in a digital context, how to have good social media etiquette, and how to be safe online. Here are a few tricks to help parents monitor what their kids are up to when they go out into the online world.

Set an Age Limit

Did you know that Facebook has an age limit, and that limit is 13? In practice, it's pretty easy for someone to lie about their age and sign up and there's not much Facebook can do about that, but it's a good idea for parents to set an age limit for social media. Most social media sites have age limits, which are a good place to start. For Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit, and Snapchat, users need to be 13. For WhatsApp, it's 16. For Vine, it's 17. Youtube, Kik, Flickr, and WeChat all say that users need their parent's permission if they aren't 18 yet, which is a good place for families to start.

They Have to 'Friend' You

If your child has Facebook, they have to friend you. If they're on Twitter or Instagram, they have to let you follow them. If they have a YouTube channel or Tumblr blog, you have to be allowed to subscribe. It's true that teenagers are entitled to a private life, but social media isn't private.

Review Privacy Settings

Make sure your child's privacy settings for their social media accounts are on their strictest settings. On sites like Facebook, things they post should only be seen by friends and their instant messaging settings should also be 'friends only'. It's a good idea to review your child's privacy settings regularly. Try looking your child up on social media from a computer that isn't logged in and ask yourself if you're comfortable with the world seeing what you see.

Invest in an App

If you want to take a more proactive approach to monitoring your child's digital life, you can always pick up an app. There are apps that track locations, monitor texting, set limits on what hours apps can be used, set time limits on certain apps, filter specific types of content, whitelist or blacklist phone numbers, and review browsing history. Some of the apps worth checking out are Norton Family, PhoneSheriff, Qustodio, Net Nanny, and Lock2Learn.

Remember: What Goes Online Stays Online

Lots of kids (and if we're being honest, more than a few adults) have a lot of faith in the idea that the things they post online will be forgotten, deleted, or otherwise disappear. This faith is misplaced. What you post online stays online. Kids aren't going to understand or care about future job recruiters seeing what they post, but they might be a little more cautious if they understand their future self can be embarrassed by their past self. Ask your fourteen year old how they'd feel if things they thought, written, and shared as an eleven year old were still floating around online. And remember, it's appropriate for parents to share stories of their own online embarrassment or missteps with their kids; after all, the only thing someone else can do with your mistake is learn from it, right?