The vast majority of teens use social networking sites. Although social media can offer many educational opportunities, it can also be very dangerous for teens. Establish rules about social media to keep your teen emotionally and physically safe.
1. Educate Yourself About Social Media
Develop a good understanding of what your teen is doing on social media. Educate yourself about various social media sites and know which sites your teen frequents. Learn about the risks associated with various social media sites so you can have meaningful conversations with your teen.
2. View Your Teen’s Privacy Settings
Each social media site has different rules about privacy settings. View your teen’s privacy settings and discuss the possible implications of making information public. Be aware that some social media sites, such as Tumblr, make it difficult for teens to keep their information private.
3. Provide Education on How to Respond to Inappropriate Behavior
Unfortunately, it’s common for teens to be approached by adults online. Sometimes, they are shown pornographic material or asked to engage in sexual conversation. Discuss how you expect your teen to respond if problems should develop. Make it clear that your child won’t get into trouble and explain the importance of talking about it so that you can work together to find ways to prevent it from happening again. Also, discuss how your child can respond to other issues, such as cyberbullying.
4. Talk About What’s Appropriate to Share
Engage in frequent conversations about what is appropriate to share on social media and what isn’t. Sometimes teens need reminders that they shouldn’t say things online that they wouldn’t say to someone’s face. Make it clear that there can be serious ramifications for bullying, making threats, or engaging in sexualized behavior via social media.
5. Establish Clear Rules About Respecting Everyone’s Privacy
Make it clear that your teen shouldn’t be airing your family’s private affairs over Facebook. Don’t allow your teen to post embarrassing photos or information about anyone else. Establish a rule that says no photographs or information about others can be posted with permission. Otherwise, siblings sometimes use social media as a weapon against one another or parents are embarrassed to hear that their personal information is now public.
6. Keep Tabs on Your Teen’s Social Media Use
Sometimes parents struggle over whether or not they should have all of their teen’s social media passwords. Parents should take this on a case-by-case basis. It may be appropriate to do so when teens engage in unsafe behavior or when teens aren’t yet mature enough to handle privacy on social media. Even if you don’t have your teen’s passwords, take steps to keep an eye on what your teen is doing on social media. At the very least, view your teen’s public social media pages to see what it is being publicized to the world.
7. Warn Your Teen About Scams
Teens need to know about potential ways they could be taken advantage of on social media. Explain how some people are tricked into giving out their personal information and how others are scammed into giving away money. Also discuss how people online are not always who they claim to be. Talk to your teen about news stories that show how people got themselves into trouble due to various online scams and continue to make it a frequent topic of conversation.
8. Discuss How Social Media can Impact Their Future
It’s important for teens to realize that colleges and future employers are going to be looking at their social media activity. Explain how inappropriate comments and photos can come back to haunt them years later. Make it clear that once something is shared on the internet, it will remain in cyberspace and people may be able to access it forever.
9. Encourage Teens to Think Before They Share
Teens are impulsive by nature and posting a hasty social media message can lead to trouble. Encourage your teen to always think about what they’re posting and to prevent themselves from impulsively reacting to others. Help your teen develop a plan that will prevent her from doing and saying things she may later regret.
10. Set Time Limits on Social Media Use
It can be easy to lose track of time on the internet, especially when using social media. Set time limits to prevent your teen from spending hours on the internet. Most pediatricians recommend no more than two hours of screen time per day.