Browsing Instagram with Teens – NBC 6 South Florida

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For many parents, revelations this week from whistleblower Frances Haugen showing internal Facebook studies of Instagram’s harms to teens have only heightened concerns about the popular photo-sharing app.

“The patterns that children establish in adolescence stay with them for the rest of their lives,” Haugen said during Senate testimony on Tuesday.

“Kids who are bullied on Instagram, the bullying follows them home. He follows them to their rooms. The last thing they see before they go to bed at night is someone being cruel to them,” Haugen said. “Children learn that their own friends, the people they care about, are cruel to them.”

So what can you do to protect your children? Experts say open lines of communication, age limits and, if necessary, activity monitoring are some of the steps parents can take to help kids navigate the dangers of social media while keeping them safe. allowing them to discuss with their peers at their leisure.

17 IS THE NEW 13?

Have you ever wondered why 13 is the age kids can be on Instagram and other social media apps? That’s because the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act came into effect in 2000 – even before today’s teenagers were born (and when Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckberg was himself than a teenager, for that matter).

The goal was to protect children‘s online privacy by requiring websites and online services to disclose clear privacy policies and obtain parental consent before collecting personal information about their children, among other things. To comply, social media companies have generally prohibited children under the age of 13 from signing up for their services, although it has been widely documented that children sign up anyway, with or without permission. of their parents.

But times have changed and online privacy is no longer the only concern when it comes to children online. There’s bullying, harassment, and, as Facebook’s own research has shown, the risk of developing eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, or worse.

In his testimony, Haugen suggested raising the age limit to 16 or even 18. Some parents, educators and tech experts have pushed to wait to give kids phones — and access to social media — until they’re older, like the “Wait until 8th grade! But neither neither the social media companies nor the government have done anything concrete to increase the age limit.

“There isn’t necessarily a magic age,” said Christine Elgersma, social media expert at Common Sense Media. But, she added, “13 is probably not the best age for kids to access social media.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., on Thursday asked Facebook’s global chief security officer, Antigone Davis, about the harm Instagram does to children.

It’s still complicated. There is no reliable way to verify a person’s age when signing up for online apps and services. And the apps popular with today’s teens were first created for adults. Companies have added some safeguards over the years, Elgersma noted, but these piecemeal changes don’t fundamentally redesign services.

“Developers need to start building apps with kids in mind,” she said. And no, she’s not talking about Instagram Kids, the project that Facebook paused last week amid widespread backlash. “We can’t trust a company that didn’t start with the best interests of children in mind,” she said.

TALK, TALK, TALK

Start early, sooner than you think. Elgersma suggests that parents browse their own social media feeds with their children before they’re old enough to be online and have open discussions about what they see. How would your child handle a situation where a friend of a friend asks them to send a photo? Or if they see an article that makes them so angry that they just want to share it right away?

For older children, approach them with curiosity and interest.

“If teens give you grunts or one-word answers, sometimes ask what their friends are up to, or just don’t ask direct questions like ‘what are you doing on Instagram?’ but ‘hey, I heard to say that this influencer was very popular,” she suggested. “And even if your child rolls their eyes, that could be a window.”

Don’t say things like “turn that thing off” when your child has been scrolling for a long time, says Jean Rogers, the director of Fairplay, a nonprofit that advocates that children spend less time on digital devices.

“It’s not respectful,” Rogers said. “It doesn’t respect the fact that they have a whole life and a whole world in this device.”

Instead, Rogers suggests asking them about what they’re doing on their phone and seeing what your child is up to sharing.

Children are also likely to respond to parents and educators “drawing the curtains” on social media and the sometimes insidious tools companies use to keep people online and engaged, Elgersma said. Watch a documentary like “The Social Dilemma” that explores the algorithms, dark patterns, and dopamine feedback cycles of social media. Or read with them how Facebook and TikTok make money.

“Kids love to know about these things, and it will give them a sense of power,” she said.

ADJUST SETTINGS

Rogers says most parents manage to pick up their kids’ phones at night to limit their scrolling. Sometimes kids may try to sneak behind the phone, but it’s a strategy that tends to work because kids need a break from the screen.

“They need an excuse with their peers not to be on the phone at night,” Rogers said. “They can blame their parents.”

Parents may need their own phone usage limits. Rogers said it’s helpful to explain what you do when you have a phone in hand around your child so they understand you’re not aimlessly browsing sites like Instagram. Tell your child you’re checking work email, looking for a recipe for dinner, or paying a bill so they know you’re not just there for fun. Then tell them when you plan to hang up the phone.

YOU CANNOT DO IT ALONE

Parents also need to realize that this 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 damage. Without new laws that regulate how tech companies use our data and algorithms to push users to harmful content, there is little parents can do, Marachi said.

“Companies aren’t interested in the well-being of children, they are interested in the eyes on the screen and maximizing the number of clicks.” said Marashi. “Period.”

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