Stuff to talk about with your kids

A black and white image of the letters f, g, h, l, m, n.
Poppy our dog loves to text but I told her she had to read First Phone before getting her own phone.

Have you ever wondered how social media companies like TikTok, YouTube and Instagram decide what content should be suggested for your viewing? Until recently, I never paid it any mind. That is until I found out about the disturbing content that is sent to young viewers. It’s fine if suggested videos are how to make the best cookies or look at these adorable puppies. It’s not so fine when “challenges” are suggested. Young children cannot decipher the risks in challenges like swallowing Tide pods or trying to blackout from strangling. Recently several children as young as 8 and 9 years old died fromtrying to replicate these videos on TikTok.Children (especially girls) are receiving suggestions for weight loss and negative body image messages.

Here’s what you can do:

1. Discuss the concept of an algorithm. When kids click on videos mindlessly they are sending a message to the social media company that they want to see more like that video. But sometimes the company tries slightly off topic videos and when the child clicks on that, the choices for future viewing are refined. Knowing how it works can lead to smarter clicking choices.

2. Go on your child’s social media with them. See what kinds of videos are coming up in the For You section. Have an open non-judgmental discussion about it. Ask your child how they feel about what they are seeing?

3. Discuss why people do challenges. Is it for likes? Is it for popularity? Is it for fun? Talk about the hidden dangers that might not be obvious. Ask your children to pause and resist impulsively jumping into a challenge.

4. Remind your children that they can always come to you to ask questions or if they have an issue. You will try very hard to calmly work through a problem or answer a question.

Pick up a copy of First Phone: A Child’s Guide to Digital Responsibility, Safety and Etiquette