KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Every day, children with cell phones are inundated with images that could be negatively affecting them, especially if they are accessing social media.

Social media is a way kids can stay in touch with their peers, but it is also a hub for things like cyberbullying and questionable activities according to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. They say it’s important for parents to stay on top of their child’s digital activities.

Dr. Jan Neece, a child psychologist at Children’s Hospital, shares some advice for parents about social media. When it comes to determining when to allow your child to get a social media account, most social media sites themselves say you must be 13 or older to use them. So Neece explains giving your child permission before then is giving a message that breaking rules are OK.

For those over the age of 13, Neece gives parents a list of questions to ask themselves.

  • What are your child’s friendships/social skills like?
    • If their real-life relationships have drama or tension, you can expect that to be as bad if not worse on social media. Cruel behavior can explode on social media. If your child is not able to carry on a meaningful conversation with a non-parent adult, then he or she is not ready for social media according to Neece.
  • How well does your child obey rules?
    • Neece says every kid tests boundaries once in a while, but if your child regularly disobeys you or lies to you, they are not ready for social media.
  • How is your child’s self-esteem?
    • If your child is not self-confident or comfortable in who they are and what they can accomplish, they are not ready for social media.
  • Have you had direct and frequent conversations about awkward things?
    • Sexting, pornography, and predators are rampant on social media and Neece said it’s important to talk with your children about it. A child needs to know exactly what to do if confronted by any of those situations. If your child doesn’t know what to do if they encounter any of these circumstances, they are not ready for social media.

Once they are on social media, there are ways parents can protect them. Neece says to first, be a good role model. If you value time spent on your phone, they will too. Next, educate them about not sharing personal information on social media, only communicating with people online that they know in real life, and coming to you immediately if they encounter any of the dangers.

Neece says setting up restricted access on cell phones to filter out adult content and request adult permission before apps are downloaded can also be helpful. Communicate often about what they are seeing on social media and do spot checks to monitor their activity.

For parents looking for more information, ETCH suggests checking out resources from Kids Health, and