You are the best person to help give your teen the tools they need to navigate the online world. Teens are often overwhelmed and need guidance, especially around online safety. Open and ongoing conversations about social media will help your teen make informed and responsible choices online. Here are some skills that will help your teen safe online:
Skill #1: Be a Safe Person for Your Teen:
When your teen sees something online that makes them uncomfortable, you want them to tell you about it. Tell your teen:
“I promise you won’t get into trouble if you come to me about something you saw online that you have questions about”.
Your goal is not to police their online activity but to support your teen and help them understand what they are seeing online.
Skill #2: Recognize Your Teen as “The Social Media Expert”
As a parent, it can be hard to keep up with the latest social media trends, especially if you aren’t social media savvy yourself. When it comes to all the different apps and platforms, your child will probably be “The Social Media Expert” in your family.
Ask your child questions and try to understand what social media provides them – there are often lots of positives we don’t see. Ask them to show you posts/ads that they like and ask them to tell you why they like it?
Try not to focus too much on the right words or lingo; what’s essential is that you are talking with your teen.
Skill #3: Help Your Teen Talk About What They See Online
It is impossible to control what our teens see on social media. A realistic goal as parents is to encourage your teens to be conscious consumers of all media by building their critical thinking skills.
It can feel clunky and awkward to talk to your teenager about their online life. The best way to support your teen’s online safety is to help teens practice using their critical thinking skills to sort through online messages.
Here is an exercise to get started:
- Pick a post or online ad to begin the discussion. Try asking your teen some of these questions:
- Who is the intended audience?
- Who is being excluded?
- What is the message?
- How does it make you feel and think?
- Do you think the message is true? Why?
- Listen carefully and let your teen do most of the talking.Don’t worry if this discussion is very short – teens often prefer short useful conversations.
- Thank your child. Keep it simple. “Thanks for talking with me about this.”
You are the most significant influence in your teen’s life and the person they look to for important information. When having these conversations, we want to stay open and listen more than we talk. This will help build trust and understanding between you and your teen. Your connection to your teen helps keep them safe!
Call the Family Help Line 1-800-932-4673: Want more support and information? Call our FREE, statewide Family Help Line (1-800-932-4673) and talk to our Parent Coaches!