What your teen says or does online can affect their relationships and personal safety, so it’s important to talk with them about the best ways to stay safe. You can start by asking your teen what sites they visit, what social networks and apps they use and what their friends do online. Here are four specific things to discuss with your teen to help them stay safe.
1. Assume that anything you post online can be seen by anyone
Most social media sites have privacy settings that you can help your teen set up. But it’s very easy to take a screenshot of a post and then share it publicly, even if the post has been deleted (And it’s never really deleted).
2. Be careful about where you put personal information
There are lots of scams on the internet, so tell your teen to share personal information only with websites that they know and trust. And remind them to never send money to someone they don’t know online.
3. Say no to sexting
There’s no guarantee that messages and photos your teens share will stay private. If teens engage in sexting, they could face bullying or even serious legal jeopardy because of child pornography laws. Remind your teen about the risks — like what would happen if they got in trouble with the police or if people at their school saw a nude picture of them — and that anyone who pressures them into doing something they’re not comfortable with isn’t a good friend or partner.
4. It’s never OK to harass or ridicule people, including online
Cyberbullying can make learning at school difficult, cause lasting emotional harm and even increase teens’ risk of suicide. Let your teen know that if someone bullies them online, they can talk with you and you can make a plan together to deal with it. Encourage your teen to take a digital break for a while if they begin to feel overwhelmed online.
While it may feel uncomfortable at times, the important thing is to start and continue having these conversations to help you keep your teen safe online. Planned Parenthood can help you talk with your children of any age about a variety of topics around sex and relationships. We want parents and teens to have open and healthy conversations about these issues — online and off.