Youth social media usage must be overseen by parents for safety

“I’m sorry for everything you’ve all gone through,” said Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, to parents attending the Online Child Safety Hearing on Jan.

“I’m sorry for everything you’ve all gone through,” said Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta (formerly Facebook), to parents attending the Online Child Safety Hearing on Jan. 31. Zuckerberg was accused of exploiting children and putting them in unsafe situations by creating Instagram. The hearing touched on the negative impacts on children who use Instagram, and the lack of safety measures in place on social media platforms. 

However, is it really the complete responsibility of social media companies to protect children using social media? Although social media companies are accountable for creating purposely addictive algorithms, parents must also take an active role in monitoring their children’s usage and protecting them from the dangers of social media. 

Parents know the needs and maturity levels of their children best. There is no hard and fast rule on what age is best for children to get social media because every child is different. This is one reason why companies banning all minors from accessing social media is not a good solution. A better solution is for parents to determine when their child is ready to use social media. 

Social media is increasingly common; according to the Pew Research Center, 68 percent of U.S. adults use Facebook and 47 percent use Instagram. Therefore, it is important that people learn how to use it eventually. Because of this, parents should focus on educating their children on how to handle the various dangers of social media such as cyberbullying, inappropriate messages, and groomers. Parents should prioritize helping their children develop critical thinking skills so that they can succeed in the online world instead of blocking social media entirely. 

However, the owners of these major social media companies do hold some of the responsibility for the dangers children face online. Meta is facing a lawsuit filed by 33 states that accuse them of having features that intentionally keep kids addicted to its apps as well as of collecting children’s data without their parent’s permission. It has become glaringly obvious that these major corporations care only about the money they make and not about their young, impressionable users. These companies need to be held accountable and made to prioritize their trust and safety departments. 

The debate surrounding who is responsible for protecting children on social media is nuanced. While social media companies should absolutely take steps to make social media safer for youth, it is ultimately up to parents to decide when their children are ready to handle social media and to teach them how to stay safe on these platforms. A balanced approach including both parental guidance as well as company accountability is the best course of action to keep children safe online.