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How to Help Teens Use Social Media Safely

Teenagers have been stereotyped for years as wanting to fit in and fall into the latest “cool” trends. But, what hasn’t been around for years is social media. Today’s teens are navigating uncharted waters that most adults didn’t have to grow up with. This is the first generation that has literally grown up with social media surrounding them.

With platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram, teenagers can spend most of their free time scrolling and trying to post content that gets them noticed by friends – or sometimes, even strangers. Surveys have shown that 90% of teens aged 13-17 have used social media.

Chances are your teen has, too.

But, with so much pressure for them to offer the “highlight reel” of their life and so many cyber dangers lurking at every corner, how can you help your teen use social media safely? Let’s look at a few ways you can help set the teenager in your life up for long-term success online.

Help Them Manage Their Mental Health

Mental health and social media use have been the subjects of multiple studies – especially when it comes to youth mental health. A 2018 survey found that one in six teenagers has experienced the following online through social media:

● Name-calling
● Rumors
● Receiving explicit images
● Having their activities tracked
● Receiving physical threats
● Having explicit images shared without consent

Unfortunately, those problems are only the beginning. Social media creates a lot of pressure for teenagers to look their best. We are currently in an “influencer” culture, and teens feel as though they have a lot to live up to online, which is why selfies have become more popular and prominent than ever. But, it’s not enough for most teens to simply snap and post a photo. Between filters and editing apps, a selfie can look completely different by the time someone is done retouching it.

That has caused some teenagers to develop a negative self-image and low self-esteem. They might even start to have an unhealthy preoccupation with their appearance. Combine that issue with mindless scrolling, and it can contribute to mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Your teenager needs to disconnect from social media sometimes so they can strengthen real, in-person connections and step out from behind a screen. As a parent, not only can you encourage that – you can make it a rule.

Teach Them About Potential Scams

Have you ever noticed that your social media advertisements seem catered to things you already like or are interested in? It’s no surprise that social media sites collect data from users to learn how to effectively market to them. Your teenager is no exception. They might start getting interesting ads on TikTok or Instagram and be tempted to tap them.

While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that, not all advertisements are as legitimate as they seem. Keep in mind that tech companies can collect a variety of information from where you go and what you do online, including:

● Cookies
● Surveys
● Scripts
● Browsing history

If your teen is putting a lot of information out there about themselves on websites, or especially on social media, it’s easy for that data and information to get hacked. Depending on what they’ve included, they could be putting everything from their name and phone number to your credit card information at risk. Make sure your teen only clicks on trustworthy advertisements from social media sites. Even then, talk to them about what information they can and can’t share. The last thing you want is for your credit card information or address to be online for scammers to use.

Encourage Them to Play It Safe

While most teenagers use social media to stay connected to friends, it’s so easy for them to get involved with strangers, too. They might meet someone online who likes the same things or get a random “follow” or DM from a complete stranger. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes difficult to know if a stranger is truly who they say they are.

Your teenager might think they know how to handle themselves with people they’re talking to online. But, talking to them ahead of time about the real risk of predators can make a big difference. Even if they act like they aren’t interested or aren’t listening, make sure the conversation is a priority. Beyond that, you can work on keeping your teen safe by:

● Establishing boundaries
● Educating them on how to use their name and images online
● Installing app controls on their phone
● Talking to them about statistics associated with online predators

It’s not always easy to have these conversations with your teenager. Because they were brought up in a social media-saturated world, they might think they know all there is to know about it. But, put boundaries in place as a parent. Talk to them frequently. Do whatever you can now to educate them and protect them on social media so they can carry those behaviors with them into adulthood.

They’re listening to you more than you might think.

Amanda Winstead

A writer from the Portland area in the United States with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories. Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter.

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How to Help Teens Use Social Media Safely Reviewed by Amanda Winstead on Monday, September 06, 2021 Rating: 5

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