If you parent a teen, you likely know he or she loves connecting with friends on social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are popular websites that teens frequent. Naturally, parents will be concerned about their teen's safety online since cyberbullying, Internet predators, and hackers are a growing problem.
Set Social Media Ground Rules
Parents must have a frank conversation about social media with their teens. Ask your teens what kind of image they want to portray online and what you define as acceptable conduct. It might be helpful to devise a contract between you and your teen outlining how they are expected to act online, how often they are allowed to connect to their various accounts, and what, if any, consequences are reasonable if they violate a particular rule. By fleshing out the terms of what is expected, parents and teens have a better understanding of navigating the Internet.
Monitor Usage & Have Access to Passwords On Social Media Accounts
Try to keep the home computer in a public place so you can watch your teen's website usage. Put restrictions or blocks on certain sites as an added safety measure. If you are concerned about social media usage on your teen's cell phone, you can also add blocks and usage limits to help protect them. Although your teen may resist giving you his or her password to these accounts, knowing this information will help you monitor activity to ensure they are safe online.
Encourage Privacy of Online Identity On Social Media
Often teens will get comfortable on a particular website and feel the need to reveal private identity information, like their address, Social Security information, and the school they attend. Encourage your teens to keep identity information private and not reveal it online. Divulging this information may lead to identity theft, cyberstalking, or attract an Internet predator.
Report Suspicious Activity
Advise your teens to report any encounter that makes them feel uncomfortable from a stranger or a friend. If a stranger is inundating your teens with friend requests or trying to message him or her on Facebook or Twitter, tell them to report that kind of behavior to you immediately. Also, encourage your teen to talk to you if they feel like an acquaintance or friend is engaging in cyberbullying or stalking that crosses the line. Silence can lead to irreparable damage, and letting your teens know that they can talk to you when this occurs is crucial in preventing a more serious situation.
Teach the Internet is Permanent
Inappropriate photographs or language can harm your teens' chances in potentially securing a job or other position. Many companies review the online profiles of their applicants and a picture portraying risqué behavior might prevent them from getting a job. Even if your teen deletes certain incriminating pictures or posts, it doesn't necessarily mean that it is erased. Ask your teens to carefully consider what they post to save themselves from future harmful consequences.
Check-In with Your Own Profile
Parents might want to set up their own profile on social media sites so they can periodically check in and monitor their teens' activities. By creating your own profile, you can take a look at what they are posting on other sites, pictures that appear on their feeds, and the friends that are connected to their page.
Having a frank discussion about the ground rules and taking an active role in monitoring your teen's safety online is an important step in preventing cyber issues.