First things first – should you allow your kids to be on Twitter? Our answer is yes. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, Twitter has no minimum age limit.
Twitter has evolved from being a short form communication platform to being the greatest source for real time news and opinion that exists. If the office building that you’re sitting in right now is on fire, you can learn about it on Twitter long before any major news outlet has it. On Twitter, your kid can follow people of influence and take in their thoughts and observations without getting permission. Who wouldn’t want that?
Students can use Twitter for research as well. Type in a topic in the search box and not only will you find links to news stories and websites with more information, but you can find out who the thought leaders are in the space, and see what else they’ve written.
Most valuable information is on the internet somewhere, Twitter is a great alternative to a search engine to point you in the right direction.
But Twitter is not just for consuming information; it’s also a broadcast platform. Make sure you spend time with your child explaining that Twitter is not anonymous, and that all the rights and wrongs that you have been teaching apply online as well.
If you have made the choice to green light your child’s Twitter account, and are comfortable that they will use it responsibly, you want to make sure that no unsavory types follow your child, or can glean information that should be kept private. What are some steps that you as a parent can take to make sure your child is not exposing himself or herself to unnecessary predator risk?
Turn Location Off: In the account settings section of your kid’s profile, uncheck the box for “Add location to my Tweets”. If your child has been on Twitter for a while, also click the button to “Delete all location data”. This applies to past Tweets. In addition, caution your child against Tweeting information about where they are going to be and with whom.
Minimal Personal Information in Profile: Try to avoid listing a town, a school, age or other information that could be clues as to your child’s true identity.
Avoid Strangers: This is important. Check the box to “Protect my Tweets”. Despite the allure of “being popular” minors should never accept follow requests from people that they don’t know. Better safe than sorry. If your child already has unknown followers, block them by clicking on their profile page.
Lastly, should you follow your child on Twitter to keep tabs on what they’re doing? That’s your call; it can work either way. Proper education by parents about the correct boundaries should lead to a level of trust that obviates the need, but if you want to be extra sure, go ahead. Be forewarned, though, that if your child wants to send inappropriate communications and can’t do it via Twitter because you’re watching, they are going to find another way to do it.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.