Cathie Marshall from Burke, Virginia, is confident her two teenage boys don’t have secret social media accounts. However, her boys say they know a number of kids who do. They say some kids have two Instagram accounts: one for everyone to see and another for just a few select friends. But this could be asking for trouble.
While kids are downloading their perfectly filtered pictures for parents to see, some are adding content parents can’t see to their secret accounts.
“And all of this can go on while you’re thinking you’re being a vigilant parent and you don’t know that they have these other accounts on social media,” said Julie Ryan Evans, consumer editor for SecurityNerd.com.
These hidden accounts between friends may start off innocently enough, but there are so many dangers lurking on social media, including predators and cyberbullies. Without a parent’s ability to monitor these accounts, that can be just plain scary.
“You know kind of the emotional toll all this can take, and kids using it for mean reasons posting mean comments and all that you're not seeing,” said Evans. “And then, you know, your kid’s emotions are going up and down, and meanwhile there's this account where this is happening.”
Evans said kids know it’s easy to set up extra accounts because there is no age verification. There are some limits as to how many accounts you can open, but kids can get new email accounts just as easily.
So what can you do to protect your children?
Be a Sleuth
“If you look through their followers and see who their followers are following, you can find patterns sometimes,” said Evans. “They'll often follow themselves so they won't use their name, but you can kind of sleuth around.”
Have a Conversation
“Really just letting them know how important it is, how the long-term consequences of what they're posting, who they're interacting with, and how that all really, it really does matter,” said Evans.
Set Parental Controls
The iPhone allows you to set up family sharing to monitor your children’s screen time and set time limits and content restrictions.
If your child has an Android, you can create a child account that allows you to control the type of access they’re allowed to have to things like apps and social media sites.
TikTok recently rolled out new parental controls, including options to disable comments on your children’s videos and to turn off the search function.