We live in a digital age, and internet safety for kids – as well as adults – is a priority. I am often asked how my children deal with social media. Are there any special tips or tricks or advice I give them to deal with the stress (and trolls) that come with sharing our lives and being in the public eye? I wish there was a magical answer, but the truth is, there isn’t. It’s all about perspective. For Chloe, Instagram has been part of her life since its inception, and for Clara, since she was born. So internet safety has been a priority for my family for years.
Chloe started her Instagram account on the back of the Dance Moms bus with the rest of the girls because they wanted to post funny pictures of themselves and each other. There was no “curating feeds”, no filters, no sponsored posts. It was simply to share their lives. And their usernames were RIDICULOUS: Chloedancer3, kkxoxo22, ilovetodanceandmymomisthebest, yytt66777ballerina, etc. (Who would have known how difficult it would be to claim our own names back a few years later.) I can remember watching their followers grow and saying things like “oh wow! 10,000 followers? Cool. Did you finish your homework?” And I totally remember when Chloe reached 1M followers. We were standing in a public restroom, the morning before a competition. She looked at her phone and said, “COOOL!!!!! My followers has an M! I have a million!” and I told her to post a thank you and we moved on with our day. NBD. Again, we had NO IDEA how huge this would become and how important internet safety for kids would be.
This is not Chloe's first Instagram post because a few years ago, she deleted all of her really old posts. Do you think I was happy about that? If you said “no”, you are correct.
And then I decided to start Clara’s Instagram just because she was a cute little baby and I thought her pics were fun and special because she was the little sidekick on all of our adventures. Fast forward seven years later and people are creating IG accounts for babies who aren’t even born yet.
Apparently, I deleted all of Clara's earliest posts, too. UGH.
I personally was one of the last moms to get on board and create an Instagram account because I preferred to share my wit with the world through Twitter. And I hated photos of myself. Still do, but I have come to terms with it. But do me a solid and check out my profile, k?
I am actually the only one of us that has all of my original Instagram content. My first post was in January 2012 and I hardly EVER posted pics of myself.
So, at the early onset of Instagram and Twitter and Facebook, we were not growing businesses, or looking for who had the largest following, or even how to engage followers. It was just a way for our friends and families to keep up with us. However, that has CLEARLY changed and social media is a huge, wild place with few rules and even less monitoring, and my focus has completely shifted to treating it like a business and enforcing internet safety.
Internet Safety for Kids: Magical Instagram Tips
1. It ultimately starts with the parents. As a parent, you can just let your children have complete access to the internet without any type of monitoring however, you run the risk of them being exposed to trolls, but also content that you may not want them to see. On one hand, you want to trust them and give them space, but it's up to make sure they’re not bullying or being bullied or “talking” to a stranger and sometimes the only way to do that is stalking. Do they hate it? Yep. Do I care? Not one bit.
2. Remind, remind, REMIND them that any hate on their pages is coming from people who don’t know them personally. Most of the time. There are occasional mean kids from school that will pop up and troll them and, in that situation, we just talk about how there will always be mean kids and there always have been, they just didn’t always have social media. We will have the same discussion that we have when a child is mean at school and try to remind them that if someone is being cruel, it usually is coming from a place of insecurity. It’s so tough when the words are written for the world to see, but that is also what “Delete” is for.
3. Use Instagram’s Comment Controls! This is one of my favorite internet safety strategies. There is a feature that is SO handy for parents (and yourself!). Go to the upper right corner of your profile and there are three dots: click on those. That brings you to the Options page. Scroll down to “Comment Controls” and click on it. You will then have the option to choose who you allow comments from and you can limit it to people you follow, your followers, both, or everyone. You can eliminate a lot of hassle by eliminating everyone, however, there are other options if you don’t want to go that extreme route. You can choose to click on “Hide Offensive Comments” and (THIS IS MY SECRET MOM LIFESAVER!!!) “Manual filter.” At this point, you can choose to hide comments that include certain words.
For example, when Chloe was having medical issues with her eye and some people were being brutal, I simply chose to block the word “eye” from her account. It was magical. And that small step gave me peace of mind. So, get on your accounts and your children’s accounts and BLOCK THOSE WORDS that you’re worried about!
4. Block the really awful people. As a last resort, I will just fully block the truly heinous people from my girls’ accounts. If the person is leaving comment after comment on your kids’ accounts, simply click on their name and it will bring you to their profile. Again, click those three magical dots in the corner and you will get the option to Block, Report or Mute the person. It is up to you what level you want to take it, but I tend to have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to internet safety for kids, so I block them. And then feel so victorious afterwards. Sorry, not sorry.
Having access to social media is a huge responsibility we should all appreciate and take seriously. There is a reason most platforms have age limits, however, let’s be real: kids are going to be on social media. And it is our job to monitor and keep them safe, just like in a physical situation. Words can hurt JUST as much as a kick or slap and we want to protect our kids as much as we can, so take advantage of the tools that are available to you. And talk to your kids. The more they feel confident in themselves, the less affected they will be by someone hiding behind a keyboard or a phone screen.
Thanks for reading and sharing!