Talking with Teens about Social Media

If you have teenagers, they are probably active on at least one social media site. While these websites provide fun ways to interact with friends, there are some inherent issues that both parents and teens should be aware of.

Whether your son loves Instagram or your daughter spends tons of time on Snapchat, parents of social media adoring teens typically deal with some common problems. For example, the sites are notorious for being “time sucks,” and may interfere with homework, chores and family time. Teens may overshare personal information, and they may use poor judgment when posting photos. To broach these important topics with your teens, consider the following tips:

Set Some Ground Rules

To make sure your teens are not letting social media take over their lives, it’s important to establish some rules. Your kids will probably balk at this idea, but hey — you’re the parent, you probably bought them their phones, and you can set up some boundaries that you are both comfortable with. For example, let your teen know that he can be on Facebook, but he has to be friends with you. This way you can spot-check his account to see what he is up to. If your teen expresses concern about this, you can always assure him that you are not going to “like” all of his posts or post on his page. In addition, establish some time limits for social media; for example, your daughter can only go on Facebook once her homework is done and the pets are fed, and she has to put her phone away during dinner and again by 9 p.m.

Talk About Identity Theft & Security

Since identity theft is probably the last thing on your teens’ minds, it’s important to talk with them about this issue and how it relates to social media. Stress the importance of a strong password and remind your teens that if it’s something that you or their friends can guess — like the name of your dog or their birthday — it’s not strong enough. Give tips on how to make passwords extra secure; for example, the first name of a singer combined with their favorite color plus the year they will graduate from high school. Also, be aware that some social media sites require security prompts when signing up, and so your teen might have unknowingly revealed all sorts of personal info like his or her school’s name, pet’s name and the names of family members. To help ensure that hackers will not be able to use this information, invest in a reputable online protection program like LifeLock; this way, if Internet criminals access your teen’s social media accounts, you will be alerted to any fraudulent activity right away.

Discuss Privacy

Spend some time showing your teen how easy it is to see someone’s posts and pictures. Bring up the Facebook page of an acquaintance who you have not friended on the site — research ahead of time to be sure the person does not have private security settings in place — and show your teen how easy it is to see anything and everything about the person. Then ask, “would you want your biology teacher or your grandma to see something like this about you?” Appealing to a teen’s sense of “ickiness” can go a long way in preventing him or her from creating inappropriate posts.

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