Social media is a part of everyday life, and parents who worry about their teen’s use of all the different platforms may feel overwhelmed. While banning teens from using social media is not realistic, parents can be more involved in their teenager’s online presence, and set up some social media rules and guidelines on how to stay safe and preserve privacy.
Parents must teach their teenagers to use social media wisely, and help them understand the long-term effects of abuses, mistakes and even pranks on social media. Responsible use and what to do when they encounter issues or problems should be the focus of every parent of a teenager who uses social media.
Here are 3 rules that parents must teach their teens about responsible use of social media to keep them safe:
Rule #1. Don’t ever share passwords, except with parents.
Teens should never share their passwords with anyone, even significant others or best friends. All too often, a teen relationship can change from sunny to stormy, and a vindictive ex can do some real damage by hacking into your teen’s social media accounts.
The importance of keeping privacy settings to themselves is the number one lesson that parents should teach their teens. If they’ve made a mistake and shared passwords already, work with your teen to change them immediately. Of course, as parents, you should have access to passwords as long as they are minors.
Rule #2. Control what information makes it online.
Teens are often too trusting and may not understand when someone is trying to manipulate them or take advantage of them. Teach them to never give out personal information like an address or phone number, and even their school.
Another thing to avoid are reporting when the family will be gone on vacation. Social media also makes it easy for teens to send out messages reflecting their current mood, so caution teens that when they are experiencing strong emotions, like anger or sadness, to hold back from posting rants or bad information until they’ve had a chance to calm down.
Teens also need to realize that what goes online will stay on line in some form or another and it is nearly impossible to erase something once it is posted. Vulgarity, partying photos, sexting, and other unflattering images and texts can haunt teens long after they’ve grown up and are seeking entrance to colleges and interviewing for jobs.
Rule #3. Recognize abuse and report it immediately.
A high percentage of teens claim that they have either been cyber-bullied or witnessed it among their friends. Parents should spend plenty of time reviewing what is acceptable behavior and what is not with their teens. Teens can experience cyberbullying much more frequently than adults. Teach teens what it looks like, that it’s illegal, and where to turn for help in reporting the abuses. Many states and municipalities are passing tough laws on cyberbullying and sexting, so teens should also be aware of the seriousness of the acts.
Always communicate with your teen about your expectations on their social media use. Also, the use and abuse of social media is not just a one-time conversation — it should happen consistently as your teen matures and expands their circle of friends and their interests change. In extreme cases, a lack of rules for social media can lead to internet addiction, and teens need professional help to overcome that powerful hold.
Parents should also help teens put social media use in perspective, as far as not forgoing other activities for online things. When both teens and parents understand how to use social media responsibly, there will be much less heartache and frustration in communicating with friends and family.