Since many teenagers have an online social media presence, it is important to create opportunities to speak with them about social media safety and how to responsibly engage with others online. With so many social media platforms, it can oftentimes feel overwhelming, especially as a parent, trying to keep up with it all. How do I stay involved enough, but also let my teen know that I trust them; what dangers do I need to be aware of; and what in the world in this “ghost mode” on Snapchat? Sound familiar? It’s okay–parents, even parents who are well versed in social media, struggle at times to manage and effectively communicate with their teen about navigating the internet carefully. If this is something you have wanted to talk to your teen about, or perhaps you have tried in the past but wish to revisit the conversation, I invite you to continue reading and check out some of these useful tips to help guide you!

First, let your teen know why you want to have this conversation with them. Your goal here is to communicate to them that you care about them and their safety and, while you trust them, you want to make sure they understand that you are always there as a resource should they come across anything, or anyone, online that makes them feel uncomfortable and uneasy.

Second, calmly ask your teen what they know about social media safety. This is a great opener because it allows your teen to steer the conversation and gives you a clear understanding of what they know and don’t know. You can also ask them about their favorite social media apps and explore what it is they like about them while perhaps sharing some of your favorites as well.

Thirdly, discuss privacy settings. This is an important step because this is where you may need to set up a boundary with your teen and trust them to stick to it. While social media can be engaging, it is also important to protect oneself and one’s reputation while online. It is important to remember that, even with these privacy settings in place, nothing your teen puts out online is entirely private. Check out the links listed below in order to learn more about privacy settings and how to enable them on your and your teen’s social media platforms.

How to Manage Your Social Media Privacy Settings:

The Ultimate Guide on How to Manage Social Media Privacy Settings:

Lastly, talk with your teen about their online reputation. Just like how, in real life, your teen has a reputation to uphold they have one online as well. You might hear this be referred to as your teen’s “digital footprint”. One’s digital footprint is the information about that person that exists because of their activity online. It is important to create a positive digital footprint because future schools, employers, etc. may be looking at your teen’s digital footprint to gather an initial impression of them and you want to be sure it is a good one. A good rule of thumb is: Never post anything online that you wouldn’t be comfortable with your Grandmother seeing. While the particular verbiage of this rule may be changed, the overarching message is consistent and clear: Be cautious about how you are portraying yourself to others online.

If you would like to read further about social media safety, I encourage you to visit the site I’ve posted in the link below–it has a multitude of helpful resources and a Parents Helpline, should you need additional support. If you would like to learn more about effective ways to communicate with your teen or think your teen may be struggling because of something that is occurring online, please reach out to us for a free twenty minute phone consultation and we would be happy to help.

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