reviewed 9/12/2018

Teens and social media: True or false?

Kids in their teens—and younger—spend a lot of their hours in front of a screen these days, chatting over social media. Parents can help their kids stay safe by preparing them—and venturing into the cyberworld with them.

True or false: As a parent, it's a good idea to have your own social media accounts, especially if your kids have them.

True. Having your own online profile is a great way to learn what kind of technologies your child is using. You can help keep your children safer online by becoming familiar with the various applications kids use to talk to each other. Plus, you'll be able to "friend" your kids—which will help you keep an eye on them.

True or false: Kids are so tech-savvy, there's little a parent can do to influence a child's online behavior.

False. There's a lot you can do, and it starts with talking. Let your kids know you're just as interested in what they did today online as offline. Ask them regularly what's going on in their social media use as a way to start conversations.

True or false: Messages and pictures sent privately to one person are sure to stay private.

False. Emphasize to your kids that anything sent over the internet might be seen by many more people than they imagined. And remind them that what gets posted on the internet can't be taken back. Deleting it from the platform doesn't necessarily delete it everywhere.

True or false: The internet isn't a real place, so kids can't be bullied online, and interactions there don't matter as much as in-person interactions.

False. Cyberbullying is real and harmful. Have conversations with your children about the dangerous consequences of spreading rumors or sharing cruel images of other people. And encourage your child to talk to you if something online bothered him or her—even if it seems minor.

True or false: Don't talk about "sexting" unless your child asks about it.

False. Discuss "sexting"—sending text messages with inappropriate photos—when you give a child a cellphone. Tailor your talk to his or her age group. Start by asking if your child has heard of sexting. Make sure kids of all ages understand it can have legal consequences.

Social media is a big part of a teen's life. But it's just one of many concerns for a parent. Find advice and helpful information in our Health Information Library.

Visit the Teen health topic center

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; Federal Trade Commission

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