More Apps for Younger Users Emerging. Here’s What Parents Need to Know.

More and more social platforms are coming up with safer ways for younger kids to access their apps. The most recent announcement comes from Facebook who is reportedly creating a version of Instagram for kids 13 and under.

It’s a family safety win to see so many companies (YouTube, TikTok, and Facebook have parental control channels) making changes. That’s because currently, kids under 13 have no problem getting around an app’s age restrictions, a decision that can expose them to risks such as cyberbullying, stranger connections, and inappropriate content.

With apps making an overall shift toward safer experiences, areas of concern for families still exist especially since kids are increasingly connecting with social media companies before they enter middle school. Here are just a few things to consider as your child moves into the world of social networking, regardless of his or her age.

Family Talking Points

  1. The emotional side of social. Not all social networks work the same. Instagram is photo-based, which means a child’s experience may impact self-esteem and mental health more so than a network that is solely text-based. Consider talking to your child about the risks often associated with Instagram such as body image, cyberbullying, mental health issues. Regardless of age, it’s important to keep close tabs on a child’s mental health if they spend time online.
  1. Talk about the risks. The years before kids begin using the trendier social networks, is a critical window to have honest, age-appropriate conversations. Consider discussing what kinds of things to look out for online, including bullying, predatory behavior, and inappropriate content.
  1. Explain monetization. While social networks are a way of life for teens today, there’s so much more going on behind the scenes. Consider discussing the concept of monetization with your kids so they are aware of the businesses churning behind social networks. Cultivating the next generation of untapped users is a huge piece of a tech company’s strategy. Creating safer avenues for younger kids is a win for parents. However, introducing kids to a platform as early as possible is a big win for tech companies as well.
  1. Discuss personal privacy. One of the biggest risks to kids online — and often the one kids care about the least — is privacy and how social networks collect and use kids’ data. It’s never too early to start talking about privacy and ways to reign in your family’s digital footprint.
  1. Start building digital skills. The tween years are critical to preparing your child to eventually spend more time on social platforms for kids over 13. In addition to privacy, consider other important topics such as digital literacy, cyberbullying, online scams, why parental controls matter, and other important digital skills.

The window between 9-12 is an important one when it comes to teaching kids digital skills and influencing their digital behavior. It’s never too early to begin these conversations. Remember, kids need aware, digitally savvy parents more than ever to prepare them for the challenges ahead.

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