Even though the internet is an amazing tool that teenagers can use to learn, create and connect, the online world can be challenging. In fact, a recent survey by the NSPCC revealed that one in four young people in the UK has seen something upsetting on a social networking site and 58% of those teens have also been upset by someone they knew online. These statistics highlight just how important it is for parents to talk to teens regularly about ways to stay safe online and learn what to do if a problem arises. Here are some important areas that you should cover.
Explain how to stay safe
Establishing some simple guidelines for teens to remember when they’re using the internet is a great place to start. Talk through the following points on how to stay safe and make sure they understand the importance of each one.
- To always be nice to people online. Cyber bullying is a huge problem, especially with the anonymous nature of social media and online messaging. A good moto for teens to live by is to treat others how they would like to be treated. It’s also important that teenagers feel as though they have someone to talk to if they’re feeling victimised on the internet. We recommend having regular chats about their life online to give them the opportunity to share with you.
- Be careful what is being shared. For example, make sure your teen knows to avoid posting about their current location or where they might be going later.
- Keep any personal information private. Show teens how to turn on privacy settings on their social media pages and make them aware what ‘personal information’ is. For example, their email address, full name, date of birth, phone number, address and school name.
- To know how to report inappropriate posts. If teens see or experience something they don’t like or find upsetting, they should know how to report it or immediately tell someone they trust.
- Keep all passwords safe. Make sure your teens don’t tell anyone else their passwords or write them down.
- Never meet anyone in person they’ve only met online. Discuss how it isn’t easy to identify someone online and that sometimes people aren’t always who they say they are.
Look at websites together
Once you’ve discussed the ways they can stay safe online, ask your teen what websites they visit or apps they use, write a list and have a look at them together. It’s important to stay positive if you see a site that’s good but don’t be afraid to voice any concerns you may be having. Once you’ve had a look through the sites, it’s a good idea to talk to your teens about what you think is appropriate, making sure to include them in the conversation. This will not only make them feel involved in the decision making but they’ll feel as though they aren’t being ‘told’ what to do. Together come up with a final list of sites/apps that are O.K., and make sure you revisit this discussion every few months or so.
Discuss what makes them feel uncomfortable
Finally, it’s important for teens to be able to recognise and discuss openly the things they see online that make them feel uncomfortable. Together talk through the specifics, ask them what makes them feel a certain way and why. Offer reassurance, reminding them they can always talk to you, and show them how to block sites or even unfriend people that are upsetting them. If teens feel as though they can talk through things with you, it will be sure to keep them much safer online and make informed decisions when browsing the internet.