What Parents Should Know About Their Kids and Group Chats

By Rebecca Paredes
February 14, 2024
Teen looking at phone in school hallway

Welcome to Parent Pixels, a parenting newsletter filled with practical advice, news, and resources to support you and your kids in the digital age. This week:

  • What parents should know about group chats, aka the prime way your kids are talking to their friends on social media and texts.
  • On the blog: what parents should know about Instagram’s new Close Friends feature, and how to actually monitor texts on iPhones.
  • The Senate grilled five tech CEOs about how technology is harming youths. What happens next?

Digital Parenting

What parents should know about their kids and group chats

Odds are high that your child is currently involved in at least one group chat if they own a smartphone.

From social media to text messages, group chats are the modern equivalent of cliques. However, just like cliques that cluster next to lockers and gossip that spreads through whispers, group chats come with their own set of issues. It’s crucial for parents to understand this digital landscape so they can guide and support their kids through the ups and downs. 

When posting on social media, teens have to negotiate the dynamics of different audiences seeing their posts. But group chats can feel more private and protected, allowing kids to share inside jokes and video calls with a smaller group of friends. As opposed to passively scrolling through a feed, these more active types of behavior can support greater perceptions of social support and belonging. Being part of a group chat, and keeping up with it, can help teens express their identity and feel closer to their friends. 

At the same time, group chats come with risks.

  • FOMO (fear of missing out) can keep kids glued to their phones. They may feel afraid that something big will happen in the group thread while they’re asleep, so they stay up into the night or feel compelled to constantly check their phone during the day. 
  • Social dynamics can add an extra layer of stress to the group chat. From not inviting someone to a chat in the first place, to removing them, to using the thread to make secret plans, group chats are a prime place for exclusion, toxicity, and even bullying behavior. 
  • Then there are the safety risks. Depending on privacy settings, your child may be added to a group chat with people they don’t know. At worst, this situation can expose them to predators, especially if the stranger begins talking to them one-on-one. 

We’re big proponents of staying involved in your child’s digital life. That includes setting boundaries around device usage and regularly monitoring their text threads and social media inboxes. 

It’s also important to keep the lines of communication open. Ask your kid who they’re messaging, and let them know they can come to you when problems arise. You can also use a text monitoring service like BrightCanary to keep tabs on their messages and step in when they encounter anything concerning.

You know your child best. Check in with them, start the conversation about personal safety, and discuss when it’s time to leave a chat — especially if things turn harmful or make them feel bad. 

Practical Parenting Tips

What parents should know about Instagram’s new Close Friends feature

Since 2018, Instagram users have had the option to create a list of Close Friends, and use it to limit who could see their Stories. Recently, Instagram expanded this option to include posts and Reels — we break down why we love this for parents.

How to monitor my child’s text messages on iPhone

It’s a familiar scene of modern parenting: your kid, hunched over their iPhone, furiously texting. You, dying to know what they’re saying. But should parents read their child’s text messages? If you decide to monitor your kid’s text messages on iPhone, how do you do it?

What’s Catching Our Eye

🏛️ The problems with social media got a lot of attention late last month around the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, in which lawmakers grilled five tech CEOs about concerns over the effect of technology on youths. Following the 3.5 hour hearing, some experts say that the momentum will help pass rules to safeguard the internet’s youngest users, while others say congressional gridlock will keep potential legislation in stasis. 

💼 One takeaway from the Senate hearing: don’t mess with the APA because they will fact-check your claims. After Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg claimed social media isn’t harmful to mental health, Mitch Prinstein, PhD, chief science officer of the American Psychological Association, clapped back and accused Zuckerberg of cherry-picking from the APA’s data.

🤖 How can AI help give teens protection and privacy on social media? Afsaneh Razi, assistant professor of information science at Drexel University, writes about how machine learning programs can identify unsafe conversations online (the same approach that BrightCanary takes!).

Parent Pixels is a biweekly newsletter filled with practical advice, news, and resources to support you and your kids in the digital age. Want this newsletter delivered to your inbox a day early? Subscribe here.

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