How to keep your kids safe online — without taking away their phone

If you have a child old enough to be on social media, there’s a lot to worry about.

During a nearly four-hour hearing on kids safety online last week, senators sparred with tech CEOs from Meta, TikTok, Snapchat, Discord and X about the harm their apps pose to tweens and teens. There was talk of child sexual abuse material (also known as CSAM), suicide, bullying, drugs, lethal viral trends, extortion, disordered eating and mental health issues — all linked back to the use of social media.

Given the popularity of social media and the prevalence of smartphones in teenagers’ lives, how can adults protect them from every worst-case scenario lurking in direct messages and algorithmic feeds?

Government help could be a long way off. While more than five proposed pieces of legislation were mentioned during the hearing, it’s unlikely any will be passed soon, even with bipartisan interest in the topic. Critics say such legislation could be used to target LGBTQ+ teens or further block minors from getting essential information about history, politics and sex — similar to the book bans sweeping the country.