Social Media & Children

Parents have ongoing conversations with their teenager about the multitude of hazards and risks of driving an automobile long before they hand over the keys. It’s easy to talk about. Parents know from being out on the road what can happen, what risks exist and how to minimize the chances for trouble. Some parents even strengthen their oversight by having their new driver sign a contract that lays out the rules and expectations and the consequences of deviating from the contract.  It’s a great risk management step.

Creeping into the consciousness of more and more parents are the concerns about their child’s use of social media.  It is a field loaded with land mines. According to IDentity Theft 911  

  • The average age of a child getting a smart phone is 9 years old.
  • A child aged 14 has more “connections” online than he or she does in person.
  • The average teenager receives and sends over 3,700 text messages a month.
  • 59 percent of teens communicate with strangers online.
  • 52 percent of high schoolers have bullied someone online.
  • 52 percent of high schoolers have been bullied by someone online.

In January of this year, NPR’s “All Things Considered” reported a story about a boy who posted a suggestive photo of a female classmate. In less than one hour he had 443 likes, 261 comments and 2,000 friend requests.

Many parents don’t have a clear understanding of what exposures exist for their children or themselves with their child’s use of social media.  If your child posts something that slanders another party or can be linked to causing harm to someone else, as a parent, you may be held liable or have to defend such an allegation. Your personal insurance program may be able to support you in these issues if properly structured.

There are strategies for minimizing and managing social media risk.

  • Have ongoing dialogue with your child about social media behavior (online etiquette) and rules navigating the online world.
  • Establish a written social media contract; there are numerous examples on the web.
  • Check out SocialScout.  It helps parents monitor their children’s social networking and smartphone activities. It’s similar to an online executive dashboard.
  • Talk with your insurance agent regarding your homeowner’s program.  Are you with an insurer who offers a personal injury endorsement? You should be.  Do you have excess umbrella liability insurance?  It’s recommended.  Your agent should be bringing these ideas to you to be sure you’re adequately and sounded protected.

Social media is beyond emerging – it’s a force to respect and manage safely, much like the 2-ton, 150 horsepower vehicle you put your child in charge of.   It deserves all the attention you can give it and all the insurance protection available to you.


Mark Z. Moores, CPCU, ARM, AAI is president of Moores Insurance Management, Inc. – a locally owned property and casualty agency focusing on personal and business insurance and risk management services in St. Paul, MN

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