- Get Secure
Check the security settings of each of your teen’s accounts and talk about the importance of keeping their profiles private. Take time to discuss with them why their profile should only visible to friends they have chosen to accept. Disable location services and geo-tagging of photos, which gives the public a roadmap to your teen. Discuss the importance of keeping passwords and all other sensitive information completely private, even from close friends.
- Communication and Education
Keep open lines of communication when your teen talks about posting, tweeting or snapping. These avenues of communication are rapidly replacing calls and texts with today’s youth and has become central in their everyday lives. Consider getting a profile of your own for the sites your teen frequents. This will not only allow you to monitor what your child posts but also who likes or comments on it. Once you get a feel for the social platform, you will be more familiar with the potential risks of each site and better prepared for conversations with your teen. Sometimes the risk is simply feeling unpopular while going through the ebbs and flows of adolescence. Help your child keep a healthy outlook and encourage them not to keep score of followers and likes.
- Establish Ground Rules
Consider keeping the computer or tablet confined to common areas of the home and collect smart phones at night before bed. Monitor the time your child spends on their phone or tablet and speak up if it is starting to become a distraction from schoolwork and extra-curricular activities. Be clear that it is never okay to meet someone they met online without your consent. Ask them to let you know if they or any of their friends have received strange messages or friend requests.
- Get Real About the Dangers
Provide honest and real life examples of social media dangers like sexual predators, identity theft and cyberbullying. Remind your teens that deleting a post or picture does not erase it from the internet. Anything that they post today is likely to reappear while applying to college or a job in the near future. It will not be the first time your child has heard about online dangers, but it will give you a chance to explain that these guidelines are essential in keeping them safe. This is also a great time to talk about online etiquette. As much as you do not want your child to become the target of cyberbullying, you also do not want them to be the cyber bully. Use the WWGS or “what would Grandma say” rule when posting online.
- Ask the Tough Questions
Do they feel targeted, judged or left out because of their interaction on social media? How is social media used among their friends; is it just for fun or do they seem stressed or even nervous about what and how often they post? Pay attention to trends in your child’s behavior after they have been on social media. If they seem upset, ask them about it. It is often difficult to navigate boundaries with teens who have rightfully gained some independence and every family will have to decide what boundaries are right for them. Finally, don’t get discouraged if your teen does not open up immediately. Knowing there is a protective and listening ear is a great first step.