I’m worried about my teenager trying social media challenges and trends

It’s not always easy to know what your child is seeing or doing online. You might worry about your child joining in with dangerous challenges or extreme trends you’ve seen in the news.

Here are some things to look out for on social media and what you can do to help keep your child safe.

What is a social media trend?

A trend on social media is when content with a particular theme or format becomes popular and is copied by lots of people.

Trends are a big part of the appeal of social media for teenagers. They may enjoy joining in dance trends on TikTok or making their own videos with popular songs or hashtags.  Most trends are harmless but there are some types of content to watch out for your teenager copying.

Dangerous challenges

Sometimes challenges go viral where people take part in dangerous stunts. These can involve eating or consuming something dangerous to get a high, altering their body in some way for a beauty trend or doing something distracting while driving. Some challenges have led to hospitalisation and even death.

Extreme groups and identities

Social media allows teenagers to find like-minded groups of people online. Many groups have their own rules of how their members should dress, behave or think. This in itself isn’t a problem but look out for your child behaving in a way that they don’t feel comfortable with or that might seem extreme.

Unrealistic beauty standards

Diet culture is nothing new, but social media has led to younger children worrying about their body image. Some social media trends encourage extreme diets and workouts or unsafe home cosmetic procedures.

Harmful or bullying behaviour

Explicit content is against the rules of all social media platforms and will be taken down if reported. But there is a risk children or teenagers see images before content is taken down. Read the NSPCC’s advice if your child has seen content promoting self-harm, suicide and eating disorders.

Talk to your child about social media trends

Most social networks have a minimum age of 13 years old to be able to sign up. Age restrictions are there to protect children and their personal information. The National Crime Agency has advice for parents on when your child is ready for social media.

If your child is on social media, try to have open conversations with them about how to stay safe online.

Talk to your child about:

  • Trends that come up in the news – if you hear about a dangerous social media trend, ask your child if they’ve heard about it and what they think of it. Allow them to share their opinions without judging them.
  • How the apps work – if they don’t like a type of content or want to see less of it, do they know how to show they’re not interested?
  • Reporting content – do they know how to report content that is against the apps rules?
  • Who they can talk to – it’s important your child knows they can talk to you or another trusted adult if they see anything that upsets or worries them.

What else can you do

If you are worried about the content your child is seeing online, you can:

  • Monitor your child’s social media use – when your child starts using social media, you can agree some house rules about how and when they can access it. It might be that they can only use it at home, or you could have access to their account.
  • Understand how it works – some parents choose to be on the same social media platforms as their children to understand what they might see. Remember though, the content you see will be different, depending on the accounts you follow and the content you engage with.
  • Talk to the school – if you’re worried your child has seen or is involved with a dangerous trend, you can report it to the school. The school can talk to the students and make other parents aware.
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This advice was written by our experienced Parent Talk coaches. Parent Talk is a free online service for parents and carers, provided by the charity Action for Children. For more advice, message our parenting coaches with our online chat.

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