Jul 182013

By Holly M. Irion, LMHC

Being a teenager in the post-millennial world affords a vastly different experience than that of previous generations- much due to the creation of social networking websites. Oftentimes, this poses a challenge for parents who may not be as technologically savvy as their teens, making it difficult to provide guidance, set limits and protect their kids online.

The following are some recommendations for parents to promote safety online:

  • Take some time to learn the networking websites your teen is using (do not rely solely on your teen to help you navigate the site)
  • Set ground rules for internet usage and create concrete consequences if rules are broken (rules and consequences can be spelled out in a contract signed by parent and teen)
  • ‘Friend’ your teen so you can see what is being posted
  • Have the passwords to social media accounts and review content
  • Inquire about postings on your teen’s account from unfamiliar people
  • Once trust is earned and maintained, give your teen some space and review periodically to ensure rules are being followed

In 2012, approximately 93% of teens aged 12-17 go online, with about 73% of these teens regularly using social networking websites.  For adolescents, social media has both clear benefits and risks—potential benefits of engaging in social networking are an improved sense of self and community, a furthering of artistic talents and alternate forms of creativity, and development of a social media skill set that will be useful for a successful future in our digital world.

Cyber-bulling and peer harassment are among the risks, as well as a decrease in the amount of face-to-face socializing, the risk of technology dependence, and the possible threat of on-line predators.

Lastly, if you have concerns about your teenager’s safety online it is important to talk to him or her about it. If this conversation becomes increasingly difficult, please consider contacting a licensed therapist for support.

Panaccione, V. The Benefits of Social Media
Niemer, E. Teenagers and Social Media