For many parents, whistleblower Frances Haugen revealed this week that he had shown Facebook’s internal investigation into Instagram’s harm to teens, raising concerns about popular photo-sharing apps. It was just.

“The pattern that children establish as teenagers is with them for the rest of their lives,” Hogen said in a Senate testimony on Tuesday.

“Children being bullied on Instagram, bullies take them home. It goes to their bedroom. The last thing they see before they go to bed at night is someone It’s cruel to them, “Hogen said. “Children are learning that their friends, the people they care about, are cruel to them.”

So what can you do to protect your child? According to experts, open communication, age restrictions, and, if necessary, activity monitoring are taken by parents to allow their children to chat with their peers in their own words while overcoming the dangers of social media. These are some of the steps you can take.

Is 17 the new 13?

Ever wondered why a 13 year old kid can join Instagram and other social media apps? This is because the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act came into force in 2000. That’s before today’s teens were born (and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckberg was a teenager).

The goal is to protect children’s online privacy by disclosing a clear privacy policy and requiring websites and online services to obtain parental consent, especially before collecting personal information about children. bottom. For compliance, social media companies generally prohibit children under the age of 13 from signing up for the service, but it is widely documented that children sign up anyway, with or without parental permission. I have.

But times have changed and online privacy is no longer the only concern when it comes to getting kids online. There is bullying, harassment, and, as Facebook’s own research shows, there is a risk of eating disorders, suicidal ideation, or even more.

In her testimony, Haugen proposed raising the age limit to 16 or 18. Some parents, educators, and tech professionals are asking children to call and wait until they have access to social media. A “wait until 8th grade” pledge that parents sign a pledge not to give their children a smartphone until 8th grade. But neither social media companies nor the government have done anything concrete to raise the age limit.

“There isn’t always a magical era,” said Christine Elgersma, a social media expert at the non-profit Common Sense Media. But she added, “13 is probably not the best age for kids to participate in social media.”

It’s still complicated. There is no reliable way to verify your age when signing up for an app or online service. And the apps that are popular with teens today were first created for adults. According to Elgersma, companies have added some safeguards over the years, but these fragmentary changes are not a radical rethink of the service.

“Developers need to start building apps with their kids in mind,” she said. No, she doesn’t mean Instagram Kids, it’s a project Facebook paused last week in a widespread backlash. “You can’t trust a company that didn’t start with the best interests of the child in mind,” she said.

Talk, talk, talk

Start faster and faster than you think. Elgersma suggests that parents look at their social media feeds with their children and have an open discussion of what they are seeing before their children are old enough to be online. increase. How does your child deal with situations where a friend of a friend asks you to send a photo? Or do they see an article that is so angry and want to share it right away?

Approach older children with curiosity and interest.

“If teens answer you with a moan or a word, sometimes ask what their friends are doing or ask direct questions like” What are you doing on Instagram? ” I don’t. But, “Hey, I heard this influencer is really popular,” she suggested. “And even if your child rolls his eyes, it may be a window.”

Don’t say things like “turn it off” when your child is scrolling for a long time, says Jean Rogers, director of fair play. Fairplay is a non-profit organization that advocates reducing the time children spend on digital devices.

“It doesn’t pay homage,” Rogers said. “We don’t respect that they have a lifetime and the whole world on that device.”

Instead, Rogers asks them what they are doing on their phone and suggests that you see what your child is willing to share.

Children are also likely to react to “pulling the curtain” on parents and educators on social media and the insidious tools companies use to keep people involved online, according to Elgersma. … apparently … Check out documentaries like “The Social Dilemma” that explore social media algorithms, dark patterns, and dopamine feedback cycles. Or read with them how Facebook and TikTok make money.

“Children love to know these things, which will give them a sense of power,” she said.

Adjust settings

Rogers says most parents have been successful in bringing their children’s phones overnight to limit scrolling. Occasionally children may try to sneak back on the phone, but that’s a strategy that tends to work because they need to get off the screen.

“They need to make excuses with their peers not to call at night,” Rogers said. “They can blame their parents.”

Parents may have their own restrictions on the use of the phone. Rogers said it would be helpful to explain what he’s doing when he has a cell phone around his child so that he can understand that he’s not unintentionally scrolling through sites like Instagram. Said. Tell your kids that you’re checking work emails, looking for a recipe for dinner, or paying an invoice, and tell them that you’re not just there for fun. Let me understand. Then tell them when you plan to leave the phone.

You can’t do it alone

Parents also need to understand that it is not a fair fight. Social media apps like Instagram are designed to be addictive, says Roxana Marachi, a professor of education at San Jose State University who studies data harm. Without new legislation regulating how tech companies use our data and algorithms to direct users to harmful content, parents can’t do much, Marratxí said.

“Companies aren’t interested in children’s well-being, they are interested in maximizing screen eyes and clicks,” Marratxí said. “period.”