Saturday morning cartoons that Gen X-ers and millennials watched as children have been replaced with endless TikToks, memes, and FaceTime for kids today. Even more, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teens of all ages have significantly increased their screen time, and it has never been more important to check in with your teens about their internet activities.
Today’s teens have grown up with a digital life, but that doesn’t mean they inherently know the risks of sharing the ins and outs of their day. As schooling tools shift online and students are accessing the internet more often than ever before, parents need to take steps to keep their teens safe online.
1. Talk about Digital Footprints
“Digital footprint” is a term used to describe every action someone takes online. Your kids might assume that having a private social media profile keeps their posts, well, private, but that’s not always the case. It’s important for your teens to know that their private posts can still be screenshot and shared, and their digital footprint is never as confidential as they think it is. There are no do-overs after something has been posted!
2. Educate about Phishing Tactics
Phishing is a type of cyber scam in which a criminal convinces someone to give up private information by appearing to be a trustworthy source. For teens, this often looks like fake scholarship messages, DMs from someone posing as an influencer, or fraudulent employment offers. Remind your kids that if they receive messages about anything involving money or personal information, they should always verify the source.
3. Explain the Information That Should Stay Private
Posting a picture of your dog or birthday may seem innocuous, but cybercriminals can use this information to answer security questions and hack into accounts. Make sure your kids know the following information should stay out of posts, comments, and DMs:
Parent maiden names
4. Teach That Word Choice Matters
59% of teens in America have experienced cyberbullying, and your teen should know how to identify and report bullying in the digital space. Additionally, teens need to be aware that words matter, and how they choose to treat other people online can follow them into adulthood.
While it’s unfortunate that so many teens have experienced bullying online, the good news is that the majority of teens find parents to be highly effective at addressing online harassment.
Check out USDish.com’s Essential Teen Internet Safety Guide for more tips and tricks on how to keep your teens safe—from social media to social studies. The internet might feel like the Wild West, but with a few extra precautions, your family can stay safe and happy online.