COLUMBUS, Ohio — Social media can either be a place for positive connection or a place for comparison and cyberbullying, especially with young people.

What You Need To Know

  • Feb. 4, 2004 is the day Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook, making this year the 20th birthday of Facebook, the most popular social media site in the world

  • Social media has been facing a lot of scrutiny in Congress both statewide and federally working on legislation to implement social media safety for teens

  • The American Psychological Association said ways to keep your child safe are by monitoring their accounts, setting time limits to help with self control and to model healthy social media use

But how can you decipher if your child’s social media consumption is helping or hurting them and what can you do as a parent to keep them safe?

On Facebook’s twentieth birthday, social media safety has been top of mind for congressional leaders both in the state and the country. From big debates on Capitol Hill to statewide legislation, the consensus is that parents need to be more involved with their kids’ social media accounts.  

“It offers another opportunity for difficulties in a child’s life. And just as we want to make sure that our children aren’t drinking at early ages or using drugs at early ages, or driving at early ages or driving well at the ages that they get a driver’s license, why wouldn’t we want to be more informed and aware of what they’re doing on social media?” said child psychologist, Dr. David Lowenstein.

Last week, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing for social media CEOs to discuss the dangers of social media with teens and what steps they can do to move forward with social media safety on their platforms. 

Just last month, Ohio’s Social Media Parental Notification Act, a law that would require parental approval of teens under the age of sixteen to download social media apps, was put on hold because of law vagueness.

“Everyone dealing in good faith wants to protect the interests of our children. And certainly when it comes to health studies, there are concerns about whether the internet and these apps can be safe for our children,” said Case Western University Law Professor Atiba Ellis.

While the wait continues for policymakers to make systemic changes on social media use for teens, there are several ways parents can keep their kids safe online, including something as easy as befriending them on social media. 

“So, you know, asking them to be a member or a follower or something to keep an eye on it as well as occasionally it’s okay to be able to view what they’re doing on social media as long as they’re living in your household because it’s important for you to be aware as a parent of what your child is doing,” said Lowenstein.

According to the American Psychology Association, you can keep children safe on social media by monitoring their accounts, setting time limits to help with self-control, and for parents to model healthy social media use. There are also apps for social media monitoring parents can download like ‘Bark’ and ‘Qustodio’. Experts believe the only way legislation will be passed for social media safety is for providers to have self-regulation.

“I think there is regulation that might require some combination of self-regulation among the providers, as well as more precisely tailored legislation from either the federal government or state governments. But it is an achievable goal, I believe,” said Ellis.