Social Media Privacy Settings

Social media is a worldwide phenomenon that has the power to connect us across cities and countries, time and space. It is a great uniter, but it can also be a great manipulator. It is no secret that the tactics social media companies use to keep people around are often deeply rooted in profit – pushing products and trends and people our way to keep us addicted. A legitimate concern for parents over social media use is the accessibility that companies and strangers might have to their teens. This is a valid concern, and we’d love to address a few privacy features available on each of the most popular social media platforms among teens.

(Note: Since there are different instructions for each social media app for each specific setting, we suggest a quick Google search using the action in which you’d like to accomplish followed by the name of the app – i.e., “blocking a user on Instagram.”)

Peer-to-peer privacy options/concerns:

Often, it is much easier to say something behind a screen than in person, even if your teen is friends with someone IRL (in real life). If desired, you can do as follows:

  1. Manipulate who can leave comments on your teen’s posts and turn the option for them off altogether.
  2. Manipulate what your followers can see and who has access to your account and posts (such as who can share your post, mention you in a post, etc.)
  3. Report Inappropriate Behavior anytime inappropriate actions are made toward your teen or inappropriate content has been shared by a user your teen is following.

Youth-to-stranger privacy red flags:

Instagram alone has 1.4 billion users; that’s an incomprehensible number of people who can access your teen on their social media platform. Realistically, based on the data alone, only a tiny fraction of that number will ever come across your child’s social media platform. Still, it’s not entirely about the quantity of people but rather the quality of interaction that is of concern. Our biggest tips for you and your teen to avoid unwanted encounters with strangers are as follows:

  1. Set your profile to private and/or remove followers from your profile.
    • On Instagram:
    • Tap your profile picture in the bottom right corner.
    • Tap the set of three lines in the top right corner, and choose Settings.
    • Go to Privacy.
    • Turn Private Account on or off.
    • On Snapchat:
    • Tap the settings button in the Profile screen to open Settings.
    • Scroll down to the Who Can… section and tap an option.
    • Choose an option, then tap the back button to save your choice.
    • On TikTok:
    • Tap “Profile” in the bottom right.
    • Next, tap the 3-line icon in the top right.
    • Tap Settings and Privacy.
    • Go to Privacy.
    • Turn Private Account on or off.
  2. Limit who has access to your teen’s direct messages to only the people who follow them.
  3. Report Inappropriate Behavior anytime inappropriate actions are made toward your teen or inappropriate content has been shared by a user your teen is following.
    • See point three in the section above.

Privacy and location tracking:

Social media apps allow companies and advertisers access to a myriad of data to create revenue streams for the app to continue operating. You can easily limit the data the app has access to by doing the following:

  1. Turn off any setting that would allow someone to see when your teen is online and offline.
  2. Turn off Location services on your teen’s phone. They will still be able to tag a specific location manually (although we caution doing this while still at the location tagged). Still, the app won’t be able to track them automatically.
    • On Instagram and TikTok: Tap Privacy, then Location Services. Scroll down and tap Instagram/TikTok. Select Never or While Using the App to choose location access.
    • On Snapchat:
    • Open the app and go to Snap Map by swiping down.
    • Click the Gear icon at the top-right of the screen.
    • Activate Ghost Mode. When asked how long for, select Until turned off.
  3. Unfortunately, since social media apps are free platforms, advertisers and sponsored content are part of the experience. However, you can hide or report an ad based on its irrelevant or inappropriate content, which will ultimately help curate the content you see.
    • On Instagram:
    • If you come across a sponsored post you don’t like, tap the three-dot menu in the top-right corner of the post.
    • Tap Hide Ad.
    • When asked, “why are you hiding this ad?” Select the most appropriate option from the list presented.
    • On Snapchat:
    • Tap the Settings button in the Profile screen to open Settings.
    • Scroll down to Features and tap Ads
    • Tap Ad Preferences, and uncheck Audience-Based to opt-out.
    • On TikTok:
    • In your TikTok app, tap Profile in the bottom right.
    • Next, tap the 3-line icon in the top right to go to your settings.
    • Tap Settings and Privacy.
    • Tap Privacy, then tap Ads personalization.
    • Tap to turn your ad’s personalization setting on or off.

Here is an additional source for privacy information on Instagram.
Here is an additional source for privacy information on Snapchat.
Here is an additional source for privacy information on Tiktok.

App privacy settings and features are always being updated by their providers. Therefore, maintain an awareness of new features by keeping your eye on updates.

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