Staying Safe on Social Media
Introducing new parental security measures to protect teens online
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Snapchat recently announced in an official blog post that the company is establishing parental filters for the app. In a direct quote from the posting, the team at Snapchat noted that “Creating a safe and positive experience for [users] is critical to this mission. While we want our platform to be safe for all members of our community, we have extra protections in place for teenagers.” The measures being taken include requiring teenage users to be mutual friends before being able to send messages, keeping friend lists and profiles private, as well as making it harder for strangers to locate teenage users. For example, teens will only show up as a “suggested friend” or in search results for users if they have mutual friends in common with the searcher.
Snapchat will also be releasing a new in-app tool they are calling the Family Center, which is designed to help parents see who their child is friends with on Snapchat and who they have been communicating with, but without invading the teenager’s privacy by keeping the content of these communiques private. Again, according to the blog post, “Family Center is designed to reflect the way that parents engage with their teens in the real world, where parents usually know who their teens are friends with and when they are hanging out—but don’t eavesdrop on their private conversations.”
This comes mere months after Instagram introduced similar parental controls after the company was questioned by lawmakers about child safety on Metaverse social media sites (i.e., Instagram and Facebook).
The Wild West of Social Media
Full disclosure: I didn’t grow up with social media. AOL Instant Messenger was the closest thing I had in high school and Myspace wasn’t released until I was starting college. Hell, I remember when Facebook was for select schools only and you had to wait for them to add yours to the network before you could sign up. This means that I was a legal adult when social media really took hold, and I was arguably more capable of protecting myself from strangers on the Internet.
Teenagers now, however, have grown up with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok right in their palms—connecting them to people all over the world. While this makes them savvier regarding trends, terminology, and how to better use social media—it does put them in danger for things I didn’t have to consider as a teen. Access to certain materials or substances were not as easy for me to find as it is today. And while TV, movies, and magazines contributed to lowering my generation’s self-esteem, teens today have to deal with filters on everything and constant streams of people posting about how great their lives are online without any context of how they really live. This has caused lawmakers and activists to call out the increase in eating disorders, self-harm and mental health disorders, as well as greater access to dangers like opioids and fentanyl being illegally sold on social media.
All of this creates an environment of unrealistic expectations where everyone is beautiful, traveling the world to see fantastic places, and (generally) just having a better life than you and everyone you know. And while I (a man well into my 30s) understand that the wall of images and videos I see when I search for something on Instagram is just everyone trying to present their best selves, I can’t say I’d be so wise if this was all something I was dealing with when I was in my teens.
Keypoint Intelligence Opinion
So, what’s to be done? Social media is a great resource for everyone that allows us to connect with friends, family, and other people across the globe for all sorts of reasons. It allows grandparents to stay in touch with grandkids across the country. It allows everyday people to sell unwanted home goods on Facebook Marketplace. Social media can even mimic networking events of the past by allowing you to make connections with friends of colleagues to help your business grow without either of you having to be in the same room.
And there’s no reason why teens should be kept out of the loop. Most social media sites/apps require users be at least 13 years of age to have their own profile, so parental controls like what’s being unveiled by Snapchat and Instagram are good ways of helping to keep younger users safe while allowing them to have the same connections as their older siblings and parents. That said, we might need to improve upon the old “stranger danger” and self-esteem conversations we had as teens to remind them that what they’re seeing is never the full truth and that we all need to be careful about what we put out there online.
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