Internet and social media safety for teens
The internet can be a good thing: It lets you stay in touch with your friends, do research for schoolwork, connect with other like-minded people, play games, share your music or artwork, and stay up to date on the news and your favorite celebrities. But it can also have some downsides. Keep reading to learn more about how social media and the internet can affect your life and what you can do to stay safe online.
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Potential risks of using social media
While using the internet has many benefits, it also has some downsides, such as:
- Cyberbullying, which can increase the risk of depression and suicidal thoughts
- Exposure to online predators
- Distraction from schoolwork, sleep, exercise and in-person social activities
- Privacy concerns, including the collection of data about you
- Expose you to frequent advertisements and images that can affect your body image
- Risk of being hacked or having personal information stolen
Staying safe online
Here are some tips to stay safe when spending time online:
- Be aware that once you click “send,” your message or photo is in the hands of someone else and is no longer in your control. Even with videos or photos that “disappear,” people can still screenshot or save them and they may never truly go away. If someone publicly shares what you send privately, there’s no way for you to delete what they post.
- Be mindful of the future consequences of what you post online. Many employers screen candidates on social media. A good rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t want your grandparent to see it, or wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t post it.
- If you are being bullied online, tell a trusted adult, like a parent, guardian, teacher, guidance counselor, coach or school nurse. Cyberbullying is harmful and can lead to anxiety, depression or self-harm.
- Don’t accept a connection or “friend” request from someone you don’t know. For your safety, don’t email, call, agree to meet in person or send photos to them. Some people are dishonest about who they are online and are looking for people to exploit.
- Never share personal information online, such as your password, location, social security number, age, address or phone number. Sometimes personal information is used in negative ways. If someone asks for this information, end the conversation and tell an adult right away.
- Set your social media privacy settings to where only your friends can see your profile or account.
- Know that social media sites have legal access to whatever you post and to access your location. If hackers access these sites, they can easily see what you’ve posted online.
- Take regular breaks from your device. Too much screen time can affect your sleep, concentration and mental health. Put your phone, computer or tablet away for at least an hour or two each night, keep them on silent and turn off notifications. Be sure to make time for in-person activities with family and friends – doing so can help you feel more connected.
Using the internet and social media can be a good thing as long as you do so safely. By taking breaks, staying safe and making time for real-life interactions, you can protect your mental and physical well-being.
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