In today’s high-tech world, children and adolescents are spending more and more time in front of computers, phones, and tablets. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 94% of teens use social media on a daily basis. Social media has many benefits – teens are able to exchange messages with friends, share photos, and engage with communities of people with common interests. However, it’s important to recognize the risks associated with social media and talk to your teen about being smart online.

In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2017, it was discovered that nearly all teens share their real name, photographs, and birthdates on multiple social media platforms. Many of them also share the cities where they live and the names of the schools they go to. By sharing so much information, they can be at risk of internet predators, identity theft, or cyberbullying. Several social media sites allow teens to “check-in” at their current location, which can provide dangerously specific information to an internet predator. Encourage your child not to befriend anyone online that they have not met in person.

Many teens are also not aware that personal information they share online is available to school officials, college admissions officers, and current/future employers. Stay up to date on the social media websites your child is using, and require them to use the strongest privacy settings. Regularly check their profiles and posts and have a conversation with them about internet safety and potential consequences of misuse. Set appropriate boundaries on internet use as well – if you notice your teen is too attached to their phone, designate “screen-free times” at home so that they don’t get so caught up checking their social media profiles.

Talking to Your Child about Internet Safety – Discussion Points:

  • Never meet someone you don’t know in person without checking with a parent
  • Be aware that not everything on the internet is true
  • Be mindful of the photos and comments you post on social media
  • Never provide bank account information or Social Security information unless you are 100% sure the website is reputable
  • If you are uncomfortable or feel unsafe, let your parent know

Sources: Mayo Clinic, Mental Health America, Vitamin D Council, Resources to Recover. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only.  For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.