How to Research Your Child’s Social Media Platform

Even though social media sites created specifically for children typically follow rules in place to protect children, you should research each platform before allowing your children to create an account. You should also use the parental monitors created by each site to keep an eye on your children’s activity and select appropriate account settings.

Social media online ratings systems and reviews

Unlike the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), there is no official ratings system for social media, including social media for kids. The best source of ratings and reviews for these platforms is Common Sense Media. Common Sense Media is a not-for-profit organization that rates and reviews movies, TV shows, songs, books, video games, apps, and websites. All site reviewers are trained to adhere to child development guidelines for their evaluations.

Common Sense Media’s reviews including those of social media for children, contain the following main ratings guidelines:

  • Age: Ranging from ages 2 to 17, this category also includes color coding to help guide parents.

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  • Quality: This rating lets parents know whether the quality of the content is worthwhile.

Common Sense Media also provides a rating in each of the following additional categories:

  • Positive messages

  • Violence

  • Sex

  • Language

  • Consumerism

  • Drinking, drugs, and smoking

  • Privacy and safety

Additionally, many technology blogs review new sites when they are released, providing information about the quality, usability, and safety of the platform. In the quickly changing social media landscape, sites change often. Read updated reviews of your children’s favorite sites from time to time to stay up to date on changes and how they affect your child’s experience online.

Social media privacy policies

Every social media site for children contains a page with the site’s privacy policy. Before you help your child create an account, locate the privacy policy link (usually at the bottom of the web page) or the privacy conditions within the site’s terms of service.

Read the entire privacy policy carefully, looking specifically for information about the following:

  • Compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

  • Details about age guidelines for users

  • A list of what information the site will collect about your child

  • Specifics regarding how the site will use that information, including whether they will share any of it with advertisers

  • A description of how the site is moderated and by whom

  • Site rules regarding parent accounts and ways that parents may monitor and/or restrict their children’s site usage

  • Advertising policies, especially any use of third-party cookies, that will be placed on your computer’s web browser

  • Rules about closing an account, including whether you can remove your child’s information from the site after an account has been created

  • Particulars about account holder’s ability to change privacy settings

Even with privacy settings in place, anything your children post online could end up being seen and shared. If they don’t want something to get out, they should not post it anywhere on the Internet.

Sometimes social media account holders who have been added to Friend or buddy lists by your child may share your child’s posts and information with their own lists.

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