Children and teens may relish the freedom to explore the internet, but that freedom may feel scary to parents. Adults are more aware of the risks that young people face online. Having open talks about your child's digital life on a regular basis can help your child stay safer. Here are some tips for talking about online behavior.
- Discuss the risks of sharing online.
Explain that any photos, videos, and comments your child posts could stay there forever. And other people could share or misuse them. Some people have lost jobs or college scholarships because of things they posted when they were young. Urge your child to think twice before sharing anything personal online.
- Talk about the difference between real-life friends and online friends.
Explain that people can make fake profiles and pretend to be someone they're not. Sometimes adults do this to contact children.
- Teach your child to be careful about what they reveal to people they don't know in real life.
- Urge your child to tell you right away if anyone they've met online asks to meet up with them.
- Discuss cyberbullying.
Online bullying includes sending or posting mean or harmful content about someone. Ask your child to think about how they would feel if this happened to them. Teach them to treat others with respect. And discuss what they can do if they see or experience online bullying. For example, you could encourage them not to respond or comment on hurtful posts. They may also be able to report these posts to the host site.
- Talk about what to do if your child feels uncomfortable online.
Help them think about how to deal with unwanted attention, such as requests for personal information or photos. This might include blocking the person and telling you or another trusted adult.
- Work with your child to make a media-use plan.
It's important to get your child's input on a plan. Kids are more likely to obey the rules if they feel they've been heard and treated fairly.
- Talk about what kinds of sites and apps your child can use and when they can be on them. Also discuss what will happen if your child doesn't follow the plan.
- Help your child understand that limits on media use are not meant to punish them. The limits are to help them stay safe and keep a healthy balance in their life.
- Be willing to revise your plan as your child matures. For example, some experts say that preteens should not be on social media. But many teens rely on social media to connect with their friends.
- Start talking early, and keep talking.
Parents often discuss internet use with their children when they're young but stop as they get older. Teens need guidance too. Show an interest in their online activities. And be open to listening to any concerns they might have.