Setting up social media

Advice for Parents & Carers

Get tips on how to use safety features and privacy settings on the most social media apps that young people use to keep them safe.

smartphone with child face and padlock on screen

What is the minimum age on social apps?

The minimum age requirement for these platforms does vary, however, most are 13. The notable exceptions are WhatsApp which is 16, Fortnite which is 12 and Roblox which is 7. For children that have learning difficulties, it’s important to recognise that their chronological age may not be aligned with their emotional understanding and cognitive ability. However, with the right setup, there is no reason why children with vulnerabilities cannot enjoy the many benefits connecting online has to offer.

Something to consider

Although the minimum age requirement for many social media apps is 13, there are some parents and children that knowingly set up accounts for their children even though they are yet to be 13 years old. Think very carefully if you do this, and if you choose to lie about your child’s age make sure it is as close as possible to their true age. This is because they are added rules about what advertising they may see, e.g. gambling adverts that are not shown to account holders under the age of 18. If the social media company is notified your child is under 13 they will delete the account.

The safest way to set up accounts and profiles

On many platforms your child’s profile can be viewed by anyone around the world, so think carefully about the information you choose to include.

The profile picture…

Does their profile picture need to be of them, particularly if you child is young – could it be a cartoon, an image, or a graphic instead, so it is not immediately obvious that the profile is for a child.

Personal information…

Think about sharing information that makes it easy for someone to contacts or track and find your child. Whist being in class XX at A.N.Other school is an intrinsic part of their identity, this kind of information makes it easier for strangers to make contact with our child. Likewise making your contact details, like phone number and email public opens your child to being contacted by people they don’t know. Your child may have a tendency to be more open and trusting so help them think about why sharing personal information can be risky behaviour.

Some apps allow you to choose which pieces of information in your profile you share and with whom. This can be particularly helpful, not least to trigger a conversation with your child to help them understand which pieces of information it is appropriate to share with strangers and which bits with friends and family. You can find a helpful guide to setting up safe social media profiles.

Go to Internetmatters.org to see guide

The privacy settings to use when connecting and sharing online

Privacy settings are particularly helpful to manage your child’s online experience. They are different for each app, however, they tend to follow similar principles. For children with learning difficulties, these settings are important as they offer a practical level of protection from some of the risks that they are more likely to experience. Typically privacy settings allow you do manage the following:

  • Who can see your child’s profile and what information they see
  • Who can see what your child posts and shares
  • Manage who can comment and react to your child’s posts
  • How and when your child can be tagged or tag others
  • Sharing your child’s physical location

Work through the privacy settings together with your child so that you can explain why you want them to be set that way. You may also want to regularly review the settings and amend them as your child gains more confidence and demonstrates they are able to think critically about what they see online.
Guides for the most popular privacy settings can be found here.

Go to Internetmatters.org to see guide

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