As a parent, you make it your business to know what your child is up to. You ask who they’re hanging out with, connect with their friend’s parents, maybe track their location. But how much of that same effort do you put into social media monitoring?
A recent Gallup poll found that the majority of U.S. teens spend over four hours a day on social media. With so much of your kid’s time spent in the online realm, it’s worth making sure you’re properly monitoring their social media accounts.
Social media monitoring refers to supervising your child’s activity on social networks, such as Instagram and TikTok. The most effective plan for monitoring a child’s social media accounts employs a mix of approaches. Here are some options to explore:
It’s impossible to catch everything your child does online. Luckily, there are services available which use advanced technology to monitor your child’s social media accounts. These are a great compliment to your hands-on efforts.
Set up regular times to sit with your child, view their social media feeds together, and talk about them. Rather than only looking for problems, instead approach your tech check-ins with an attitude of curiosity. Inquire about why they like to follow certain people, ask them how they’re friends are doing, and watch some funny TikToks together. Sprinkle in teachable moments and pause to address any concerns you may spot.
Make it clear to your child that the conversation about their social media life isn’t confined to your tech check-ins. Let them know they can come to you with any problems or concerns, and you’ll help them through it.
Most major social media platforms include parental monitoring settings which give caregivers extra control with their child’s accounts. Many of the big tech players such as Apple and Google also have options which help you keep an eye on your kid’s tech use.
The quick answer is: yes. Experts are clear that it’s important for parents to be proactive when it comes to their children’s social media use. In fact, the American Psychological Association (APA) recently issued guidelines advising that parents monitor social media accounts for all kids under 15.
There are also compelling reasons to continue monitoring older kids, too. After all, the dangers don’t end once a child turns 15. At the same time, it’s important to teach children to be independent and look out for themselves online as they near adulthood. Consider a tapered approach: monitoring closely when your child is younger, then gradually stepping back as they get older and demonstrate responsible online behavior.
The most successful recipe for monitoring your child’s social media uses a mix of approaches, including taking full advantage of the digital tools available to assist in your efforts.
Here are a few of our go-to social media monitoring tools:
BrightCanary uses advanced technology to alert parents when their child encounters something concerning online. It’s easy to set up and provides both instant alerts as well as ongoing reports. BrightCanary stands out because it gives parents visibility into direct messages, posts, and comments on TikTok and Instagram — something other monitoring apps don’t offer. It’s a great way to monitor your child’s social media accounts without spending hours scouring them yourselves.
Apple’s Screen Time feature provides real-time reports on your child’s device use, including apps they’ve opened, websites they’ve visited, and how much time they’ve spent on their device. These features are simple to use and can be set up through Apple’s parental controls.
If your child is under 13, you can use Google's Family Link to track their online activity from your phone. It allows you to check their device use, screen time, and content recommendations. It also lets you see their app use and view their text messages and social media accounts.
Most major social media platforms, like Instagram and TikTok, come with parental supervision settings that allow you to set guardrails around your child’s online activity. For example, using Instagram’s built-in Parental Supervision tool, you can see how much time your child spends on the app across all devices, what accounts your child is following, and who’s following them. You can also view what accounts your child has blocked.
Monitoring children’s social media accounts is a must for parents. A multi-prong approach works best, mixing hands-on viewing with digital tools. If you’re going to let your child use social media, you also need to consider how you’ll approach social media monitoring to keep your child safe.