Talk to Your Teens about Internet Safety

Many things have a good and bad side. For teens, using the internet is known to have benefits as well as risks.  Whether engaging in social media, doing research, or playing games, going online can be enjoyable, but it is important for young people to learn how to use it in a wise and safe manner.

Internet safety may be a challenging topic to navigate with your teen, but you can start by helping to develop their critical thinking skills and sharing resources about social media. Ask your teen questions about their social media profiles to make them aware of safety issues. Help teens to critically think with questions like, Who are your followers? How old are your followers? Do you know them? Are they a good influence?

“We need to prepare our teens to handle the internet,” says Amanda McGeshick, Teen Pregnancy Prevention program manager at Centerstone, “It’s important to start teaching them how to navigate potential challenges on their own. Checking in regularly and being a safe space for them is also important.”

Unfortunately, the internet poses a multitude of different risks that can negatively impact the mental health and safety of teenagers. These include cyberbullying, catfishing, grooming, various forms of violence, and the availability of information they might not be developmentally ready to process.

Talk with your teens early and often to help ensure safety and to encourage a healthy balance in their use of the internet. Here are some ways to build on your communication with your teens:

  • Educate them. “Teach your teen about privacy settings and how to block and report bullying or any kind of harassment,” says McGeshick. “It is important to inform your teen that nothing is private on the internet, and once something is sent it becomes out of your control.”
  • Set boundaries. As a parent or guardian, take the time and talk about expectations with social media and screen time. Teach your teens to not share private information, avoid talking to strangers, and to not send inappropriate messages or photos.
  • Offer safety. Try to be calm, non-judgmental, and approachable if your teen comes to you with an online issue that may be of concern. “As they’re getting older, you’re establishing a good foundation that the door is always open,” says McGeshick.

The internet is a large part of most people’s lives and modern society in general. Be sure to help your teens apply wisdom and stay safe when using it.

If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health struggles with their teens, Centerstone can help. Call 1-877-HOPE123 (1-877-467-3123) or visit the Teen page for more information.

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