Let’s face it… we’re parents and we worry about everything, especially when it comes to our teens and social media safety.  There are so many reasons why social media can be extremely dangerous with all of the horror stories of kids being lured, abducted, sexually assaulted, and bullied.

I know your teenager doesn’t want to be told what to do and what not to do, but by offering these guidelines you can set safe parameters for them to explore the entire world of social media without being bullied, ripped off, scammed, or disrespected while they’re just trying to have a good time online.

It is possible for your teen to have a safe, positive experience within the social media world, if the proper boundaries are in place.

First Steps:

  • Make sure your teen’s social media pages are set to private, not public. 
  • Turn off geo-tagging, so they cannot be located from their social media posts.
  • Do not let your teen “friend” people they do not directly know. Teens should NEVER make plans to meet someone they met on social media.
  • Report inappropriate content (bullying, hate speech, obscenity) to the social media platform AND be sure to block the poster.

Social Media Safety tips to talk about with your kids:

  1. How often do they check their settings on all social media pages?

Encourage your child to regularly review the app or social networking privacy settings. Many social networks are set to public by default, meaning anyone can see your child’s posts, pics, and videos.  We would recommend using a ‘friends-only’ setting. Keep your teen accountable, and ask them to participate in their own safety settings on a weekly basis. They will feel like you are entrusting them with the responsibility to take care of themselves, while giving them a task that keeps them safe.

  1. How many social networks are you currently using?

Just like their bedrooms, it is important that children give their social media presence a spring clean every so often.  Remind your child to deactivate any old social media profiles/accounts they may have signed up to. This can help minimize the risk of getting hacked.

  1. Is it possible to copy a photo, video, or snap without the other person knowing?

Explain to your child that anything that appears on a screen can be copied and shared regardless of the privacy features of the services they are using.  Nearly all mobile phones can save what is displayed on screen by pressing a couple of buttons. It is just as easy to capture what is displayed by taking a photo of the screen using a camera or camera phone.  Make sure they understand that once their content is posted online, there is the risk of that photo or video being seen by others forever, so make sure they think twice.

  1. What type of information/photos are okay to share online?

It’s a good idea to give some guidelines about what to avoid discussing or sharing online.  Some children may not understand how quickly content can be shared online, it may be helpful to explain that even by deleting a post/photo it may still be too late, and the content may already have been shared.

  1. Are they accepting friend requests or follows from strangers?

Make sure they understand, that they should only accept friend requests or follows from people that they know.  Tell them that they should not be chatting or messaging with any people online that are not personal friends, because these conversations can lead to dangerous encounters that they will wish they had never started.  Explain that what might seem innocent at first, can have major repercussions later that can’t be undone.

Try to be as open as possible with your teens about these topics, and include them in monitoring their own safety so they will feel that you are entrusting them with newfound responsibility because they are getting older.  

This will make these conversations a lot easier, and ultimately bring you closer to your teen, empowering them to feel like they can talk to you about anything.

Here some links if you would like additional information on social media safety:

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