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How can I keep my teenager safe online?

The teenage years are fraught with many awkward parent-teenager conversations, but the discussion of internet security is (thankfully) one of the easier ones. For this generation of 13 – 19 year olds, social media is a key cause of concern for online security.

The problems with social media

Social media, like nature, abhors a vacuum. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are all designed to encourage users to share as much information about themselves as possible. Combine this demand for personal information – and the permanence of the internet – with the experimentation of teenage years and you’ve got a potential recipe for disaster.

It’s vital that we convey to our children the importance of proper online decorum, and that there’s such a thing as over-sharing. The following tips should assist you in ensuring your teenager overcomes any online social media faux pas:

1. Social sharing means public sharing

Emphasise to your teenager that the internet is a very public forum where many people can read their messages or see their pictures.

Ask them how they feel their other friends, family, teachers or anyone else would react to their post – would it makes others think of them in a good light?

2. Social misunderstanding

Building on the last point, make sure to point out how easy it is to misunderstand someone online. Encourage your teen to communicate as clearly as possible when on the web, and ask them to understand when someone else writes something ambiguous.

3. Never argue online

For hormone-fuelled teenagers (in fact, for many adults who should know better), the internet can be a great “safe” place for arguments. Emphasis to your teenager how little these fights accomplish, and how – even if they are correct – everyone else who reads the discussion will react badly to both parties involved.

Online arguments: don’t do have them.

4. No to nudity

Oh, the awkward topic. In the least embarrassing way, explain that no matter what tool your teen uses, any exposed images or videos can be copied and shared. Even if they implicitly trust the recipient, their friends or even hackers could gain access to the files. Just say no.

5. Stranger danger

It may be a cliché, but it doesn’t make it any less true: strangers on the internet can be dangerous, however old you are. Remind your teenager it’s never appropriate to meet up with a stranger from the internet without consulting you first. This way you can get to know a bit about the person first, and a safe meet-up environment can be created.

6. Files troubles

Social media is increasingly becoming a target for malware. Teenagers will be less experienced with what posts give off signs that they are SPAM, so it’s important for you to go through the characteristics with them.

Stress that if a link seems too good to be true, it usually isn’t (for example, an offer to win a free iPad, or the particularly popular scam at the moment, pictures of Justin Bieber naked).

7. You’re here to help

Finally, remind them that you’re here to help, and not just to ruin their online fun. If you seem open and interested in their online world, they’ll be more likely to open the doors for you.

Related articles:

 How do I keep my young children safe online?

How to keep my 8 – 12 year olds safe online?

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