In the wake of escalating Israel’s war in Gaza, schools, psychologists, and safety organisations are urging parents to disable their children’s social media apps to shield them from potentially traumatic content. Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza has seen graphic videos of dead and injured civilians circulating widely on various platforms, causing concerns about the mental health impact on young viewers.

Disabling or restricting apps can be achieved through various methods, offering parents the means to protect their children’s mental well-being during this challenging period. Here are some recommendations for parents:

1) Set Up Boundaries:
Parents can utilise parental control features provided by mobile operating systems such as iOS’s Screen Time tool and Android’s Google Family Link app. These tools enable parents to manage their child’s phone activity, restrict access to specific apps, and flag inappropriate content.

Social media apps themselves offer features for parental control. For instance:

  • TikTok: Offers a Family Pairing feature enabling parents to link their accounts with their child’s account, allowing restrictions on content and filtering out inappropriate videos and hashtags.
  • Facebook, Instagram, and Threads (Meta-owned platforms): Provide an educational hub for parents with safety resources and tools to monitor their children’s screen time. Parents can set time limits and supervise their child’s activity on these platforms.
  • YouTube: Offers Family Link tools for supervised accounts, screen time limits, content blocking, and a child-friendly platform called YouTube Kids.

2) Open Communication:
Families can establish a collective agreement to temporarily delete social media apps. Creating a family policy where members agree to this can be framed as an experiment. After a period without social media, family members can share their experiences. Open discussions can help gauge the impact and guide decisions about social media usage.

Parents can also negotiate specific time limits for app usage, encouraging their children to engage in a brief daily check-in to discuss any harmful content they encountered.

3) Company Initiatives:
Social media platforms are taking measures to curb the spread of harmful content:

  • TikTok: Utilises technology and a team of safety professionals to moderate the platform and prevent violent, hateful, or misleading content. They have increased resources to address the current situation seriously.
  • Meta (Facebook, Instagram, Threads): Has established a special operations center staffed with experts proficient in Hebrew and Arabic to monitor and respond to the situation. They coordinate with third-party fact-checkers and work to limit misinformation spread.
  • YouTube: Google-owned YouTube provides thousands of age-restricted videos that adhere to policies. The platform actively removes harmful content and remains vigilant, swiftly taking action across videos, Shorts, and livestreams.

By implementing these measures, parents can provide a safer online environment for their children, mitigating the potential negative impact of distressing content during the ongoing conflict.