Keeping Teens Safe Online: 5 Key Strategies for Parents
The internet has become an integral part of our lives, providing access to information, entertainment, and social connections. However, it also poses a variety of risks, particularly for teenagers who may be less experienced with navigating the online world. As a parent, it's important to take an active role in keeping your teenager safe online. Here are five key strategies you can use to help protect your teen from the dangers of the internet.
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1. Educate your teen about online safety:
One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to educate your teenager about the risks of the internet and how to stay safe. This should include information on cyberbullying, coming across explicit material, online predators, and the importance of protecting personal information.
Take the time to explain the different forms of cyberbullying to you teen, such as harassment, exclusion, impersonation, outing, and trickery. Additionally, it's important for you to talk to your teen about the dangers of sharing personal information online, such as their full name, address, phone number, and pictures. Make sure your teen is aware of the potential consequences of sharing sensitive or personal information online, such as identity theft, stalking, or harassment.
2. Set boundaries and rules
Setting boundaries and rules for your teenager's internet use is an important way to keep them safe. This could include setting time limits for internet use, restricting access to certain websites, and monitoring their activity. Try to establish clear guidelines and expectations for your teenager's internet use, such as not allowing them to use social media during school hours or after a certain time at night. This can help to prevent distractions and ensure that your teen is using the internet responsibly.
Many internet service providers and devices offer parental controls that can help you monitor and restrict your teenager's internet use. These controls can be used to block certain websites, set time limits, and monitor activity. Using parental controls can be an effective way to keep your teenager safe online, as it allows you to keep an eye on their internet use and take action if you see any red flags.
3. Time spent online
It doesn’t necessarily follow that the more time they spend online the greater the risk. Don’t get caught up battling with them about how much time they spend on their devices, instead focus on understanding what they’re doing online and whether or not they know the risks associated with the activities they enjoy – and how to take appropriate precautions.
Encourage your teen to set strict privacy settings on their social media accounts and regularly monitor their activity to ensure they are not sharing personal information or exposing themselves to potential predators or cyberbullies. Social media sites, such as TikTok and Instagram automatically make new accounts public, but these can be updated to private accounts.
Make sure their web browser protects against unsafe websites and if they do take part in chat rooms, remind them to stay in public chat rooms and not switch to private areas.
4. Secure networks
Public WiFi networks, often found in cafes, airports, hotels, and other public places, can be convenient and useful for staying connected on the go. However, they also pose certain security risks, such as the potential for hackers to gain access to sensitive information on your teen's devices.
Teach your teen to not use public WiFi for sensitive activities. Public WiFi networks are not always secure, so it's best to avoid using them for activities that involve sensitive information, such as online banking or shopping. Public WiFi networks that do not require a password or login are particularly vulnerable to hacking so make sure your teen only uses them for non-sensitive activities.
Keeping your teens device's software updated can help to protect against security vulnerabilities that hackers may exploit.
5. Reporting concerns
Encourage your teenager to come to you if they encounter anything online that makes them uncomfortable or if they see something that is not appropriate. Create an open and trustful environment, where they feel comfortable talking to you and sharing their online experiences. Parents should actively listen and understand their teenager’s online experiences, and be available to offer guidance and support when needed. It’s also important for parents to model safe and responsible internet use themselves, as this can set a positive example for their teenager.
If you or your teen are worried about online sexual abuse or the way they are being communicated with online, you can report it to Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) which is a national crime agency.
It's important to remember that the internet is constantly evolving, and new risks are emerging all the time. By staying informed, setting boundaries, and encouraging open communication, you can help keep your teenager safe and ensure that they have a positive experience online.
Find out what more you can do at home to help your teen create lifelong healthy habits and help them study more successfully in: The Parents' Guide to Homelife and study - GCSEs and The Parents' Guide to Homelife and study - sixth form
We always love to hear from you, so do let us know if there are any subjects you’d like us to chat to you about. Stay safe and keep happy, Vanessa and Darius - firstname.lastname@example.org