Parent Guide to Protecting Teens on Social Media
Raising a teenager is no picnic! On one hand, you want to respect boundaries and give your growing child the freedom to make—and learn from—their own mistakes. On the other hand, you want to do everything in your power to protect your child from… well, everything.
(This article is directed at parents. Teens, read what you can do here).
When it comes to online safety, social media has its’ own unique set of problems for teenagers… and it can go far beyond the online predator horror stories. That’s why it’s important as a parent to be involved with your teens’ online activity and guided in how to have a healthy relationship with social media.
Let’s be honest, not every parent is active on social media.
If your teen is using social media… that is a good reason why you should be too. Even if you don’t use social media actively, you should be friends with your teen so you can routinely check and see their posts. Not only will this give you a chance to see what’s really going on in their mind (because social media brings out a passive aggressive behavior in everyone, and teenagers are especially likely to Facebook their problems instead of facing them) but you can also recognize inappropriate behavior or posts, such as posting personal information.
That being said, there is away to keep tabs on your kids social media use without ever going online. Through parental control software, parents can monitor and restrict the use of social media apps.
Note that Facebook has a filtering feature that can allow teenagers to hide certain posts from parents or other adults. Use your best judgment to determine if your child might be filtering the posts that you see.
While we’re being honest, most teenagers use another social media site more than Facebook or Twitter.
Most parents are surprised to learn that their child has social media accounts on sites they probably didn’t even know about. Talk to your child and make sure you know every site they are using and how those sites are used.
Parents who openly communicate with their children are more likely to receive the same approach in response. It is critical that your teenager feel safe in talking to you, because fear of punishment can result in isolated or rebellious behavior.
During the difficult teenage years, your child will want to test boundaries. They will want to do and say things that you would not approve of. This is basic human nature. It’s important that you understand and respect this, while letting them know they can talk to you about anything.
At the same time, you should lead by example and initiate those difficult discussions with your teen. Have a deeper conversation about how social media can effect their health and wellness, including issues such as body image. Even if you only get one-word responses when asking questions, they are still listening… and it establishes a comfortable environment for open communication in your home.
It is also important to have a discussion about cell phone safety, where kids can access social media site with ease and outside the watchful eye of parents. This raises issues of cell phone safety.
Keep computers in a “public” location, rather than in their bedroom. At your discretion, it may be a good idea to routinely check computer and phone history and require that you know the passwords to all of your teen’s accounts… but keep in mind that infringing on their right to privacy may only push them further away.
In a nutshell, trust your child enough to give them leash and don’t violate their privacy without justifiable cause. However, maintain the ability to check up on your teen if they begin to show suspicious behavior. This can be achieved through an internet monitoring app.
Boundaries, rules, and guidelines can be applied to behaviors that are allowed on social media… as well as the amount of time allowed to spend on social media. Teenagers with smart phones tend to be more interested in the cyber world and oblivious to the real world around them, but as a parent you can set the rules to prevent this from happening.
Stay informed of the threats.
Internet safety is about so much more than online predators or identity theft. In fact, teenagers are not the only vulnerable internet users.
Even parents can make mistakes on social media!!! Did you know that you should never brag about an upcoming vacation, and when you take a vacation you should wait until you return home to post pictures?
It helps to know the tricks and trends, because the more likely online threats are much more common—such as falling victim to a spambot.