How Do I Keep My Child Safe Online Without Invading Her Privacy?

“My daughter just turned 13 and she’s been pleading with me to allow her to have social media accounts like all of her friends, but I’m nervous about all the negative and potentially unsafe things that come along with social media. How do I keep her safe online without invading her privacy?”

This is a common concern these days, and it’s something that many parents struggle with, especially when it seems like new social media apps are coming out every week. Oftentimes, our kids know more about technology than we do, and it can be scary to allow your child to explore the less censored areas of the internet.

The key aspect here, though, is that your daughter asked for permission. Celebrate the fact that she is asking and being honest with you. Rather than having her go behind your back, be a part of this journey with her.

Schedule a time to sit down with your daughter and set up her account with her. Show her why you’re selecting certain privacy settings, and explain the dangers you are trying to protect her from. Set ground rules for usage, who she “friends”, and what she can post (especially with photos). Explain to her that once she puts something online, it’s out there forever, even if she deletes it later.

You can monitor her accounts and what she posts by being her online friend, and make sure you know her passwords just in case, but you may want to allow her to keep some things, like direct messages, private. Keep the lines of communication open with your daughter, so she will feel safe coming to you if anything bad should happen.

Continue building that trust between you and your daughter until you have a reason not to. Trust that you’ve taught her well, and keep that trust strong as she navigates her way through the online world.

— Jodie, CTH Family Support Worker

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