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Setting Parental Controls Across Social Platforms

Navigating parental controls on social media can be a crucial step in safeguarding young users
July 8, 2024

In the realm of social media, parental controls play a crucial role in safeguarding young users, yet their adoption remains surprisingly low. A recent Washington Post report highlighted that fewer than 10% of teens on Instagram had activated these settings by the close of 2022, with similarly low engagement from parents themselves.

Tech giants like Meta and TikTok have implemented varying degrees of parental oversight tools, aiming to address concerns raised by lawmakers and advocacy groups regarding the impact of social media on youth. However, the effectiveness of these controls hinges on proactive use by parents, as they are not enabled by default.

For instance, TikTok stands out with its robust "Family Pairing" feature, allowing parents to set screen time limits, restrict content based on keywords, and manage who can contact their teen. This proactive approach contrasts sharply with platforms like X (formerly Twitter), which lacks any formal parental control mechanisms, exposing young users to a range of unfiltered content.

Meta-owned Instagram has rolled out a suite of parental control features under its Family Center offering, aimed at fostering safer digital experiences for teens aged 13 to 17. This initiative requires mutual consent from both teens and parents to activate.


Within the Family Center, parents gain crucial oversight into their teen's Instagram usage. They can track screen time, implementing daily limits and scheduled breaks to ensure balanced app usage that doesn't interfere with academic commitments. This capability allows parents to steer their teens away from excessive screen time, promoting healthier digital habits.

Furthermore, parents can monitor their teen's social interactions by reviewing their follower and following lists, enabling them to safeguard against unwanted interactions or cyberbullying. Access to reports submitted by teens provides additional insights into any concerning activities.

Privacy settings are also within parents' purview, allowing them to manage their teen's account privacy and sensitive content exposure, including direct message settings. These controls empower parents to engage in meaningful discussions with their teens about online safety practices, reinforcing mutual understanding and trust.

Instagram's Family Center represents a proactive step towards equipping parents with the tools needed to navigate their teens' digital journeys responsibly. By fostering open dialogue and informed decision-making, these controls aim to create a safer online environment for young users, supported by parental guidance and oversight.


TikTok, much like Instagram, offers robust parental controls through its "Family Pairing" feature, designed to empower parents in managing their teens' digital interactions responsibly.

With Family Pairing activated, parents gain the ability to set daily screen time limits for their teens, ensuring balanced usage of the app. They can monitor and adjust these limits, receiving detailed summaries of their teen's activity to promote healthy digital habits.

Moreover, TikTok enables parents to regulate notifications effectively. By default, notifications for teens aged 13 to 15 are muted from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m., with the option for parents to customize these settings further by pausing notifications as needed.

Unique to TikTok's parental controls is the capability to filter content based on keywords or hashtags, allowing parents to exclude specific types of content from their teen's feed. This includes activating "Restricted Mode," which automatically limits exposure to inappropriate content, bolstering safety measures.

Parents also have oversight on their teen's ability to search for videos, hashtags, or live content, and can control whether their teen's account is recommended to others. They manage comment settings, deciding who can interact with their teen's videos and view liked content.

Regarding direct messaging (DM), parents can restrict who can message their teen or disable DMs entirely, ensuring a safer online interaction environment. Notably, DM access on TikTok is restricted to users aged 16 and older, aligning with safety guidelines.

TikTok's comprehensive suite of parental controls underscores its commitment to promoting a secure and positive user experience for teens, supported by parental guidance and informed decision-making. These tools empower parents to actively participate in their teens' digital lives, fostering a safer online community.

Understanding these tools is crucial for parents navigating the digital landscape with their children. Whether it’s monitoring screen time on Instagram's Family Center, managing interactions on Snapchat's platform, or overseeing community engagement on Discord, each platform offers unique features tailored to parental needs.

As concerns over online safety continue to mount, our guide aims to empower parents by demystifying these controls and illustrating their application across popular social media platforms. By educating and encouraging proactive engagement, we can help ensure a safer online environment for the next generation.

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