It is no secret that the internet has increasingly gained popularity, particularly in our youth.  In fact, it is estimated that American teenagers spend an average of 9 hours per day online.  This number is astounding, as it indicates the average teen spends more time online than they do on anything else, including sleeping.  So, when does this become a problem?  Well, unfortunately, there are a lot of dangers and risks on the internet to our youth, and these risks become more likely when internet use is not monitored in teens.  Keeping your teen off the internet as a whole may seem impossible, and likely is not necessary.  Taking the necessary precautions to ensure your teen’s experience online is safe and positive, helps to reduce the risks associated with the internet. 

The Downsides of the Internet

Although access to the internet has many notable benefits, including advancements in communication, virtual connection, information sharing, and education, it is important to be aware of the potential risks the internet poses, particularly for teens.  The internet is basically an open book, which provides us access to websites and services that we may not even want.  Without understanding this, teenagers may risk coming across material that is upsetting, disturbing, or otherwise uncomfortable.  Some of these risks include:

  • Pornography or sexually explicit content
  • Real or simulated violence
  • Hate sites
  • Terrorist sites
  • Blackmail
  • Online scammers
  • Cyberbullying
  • Identity theft
  • Invasion of privacy

Commonly used platforms in teens

As the internet continues to grow, more and more platforms are becoming popular for teens to interact with.  According to recent statistics on the most popular social media platforms in teens, Snapchat, a social media platform that involves sharing and receiving real time photos, is the most commonly used platform in teens.  In addition to Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Discord, and Facebook closely follow in terms of their popularity in teenagers.  These platforms are most commonly in the form of apps, and can be controlled within the app or on the mobile device’s general settings.  

How to Promote Internet Safety

All of these potential risks associated with internet use in teens may sound scary, but they are important to be aware of in order to ensure your teen has a safe experience with the internet.  Listed below are some tips to be sure your child has a safer experience with the internet.

Setting technical parent control:

Fortunately, most websites and social media sites allow parents to control the settings, limiting the sources and services your child has access to.  This may include using parental controls to ensure your child’s personal information is not being shared publicly and limiting screen time.  These parental controls may also allow you to block certain websites or games deemed potentially inappropriate.

Safety tools:

Be sure you and your child are aware of the safety tools certain apps and websites allow you to use.  This can include the ability to block an account that is harassing you, and pre-approving comments or posts before they are made public.

Profile name and information:

Although your child may be able to limit who has access to their social media profiles, it is important not to give out too much personal information in your profile.  Avoid using your full name and giving away other personal information such as date of birth, age, and location. 

Create a Family Media plan:

Creating a Family Media plan allows you to set goals, expectations, and rules for internet use that fall in line with your family values.  Family media plans should be applicable to the whole family as parents should set a good example for the teens.  Talk and negotiate with your teen about when and where is acceptable for internet usage, and what is unacceptable.

Talk with your teen:

When setting up internet safety ground rules, it is important that you discuss with your teen your expectations, and why it is important to set rules or limits for internet usage.  Helping your teen understand the potential dangers or harms that the internet poses allows them to understand why it is necessary to set up limits on internet usage.

How to talk to your child about internet safety

Talking with your teen about the importance of internet safety is sometimes easier said than done.  Some teens may be reluctant to have these conversations and some parents may just not know where to start with these conversations.  The following are some simple tips that may help you in your efforts to have an effective conversation with your child about internet safety.  

  1. Understand internet safety and risks.  Before having a conversation with your child, it is important that you are aware of the risk’s internet usage poses, and ways to help protect your child.  Understanding these risks, yourself allows you to translate them to your child, so they are better able to understand the risks associated with internet usage themselves.
  2. Start conversations early.  It is best to start having conversations with your child about internet safety as early as possible.  Ideally, if your child is about to receive access to their first cell phone or another device it is best to have a conversation about internet safety ahead of time.  Get the conversation going as soon as you can, and keep it going, as it takes time for teens to develop safe internet habits.
  3. Establish rules but exercise flexibility.  When you’re establishing ground rules for internet safety, involve your children in the process.  This establishes trust and allows your child to voice their opinions and needs.  Exercise flexibility and adjustments towards internet rules, as your child may become mature enough to handle less restrictions as they become older.
  4. Show don’t just tell.  While it is important to discuss safety internet features with your child, it can be helpful to demonstrate how they can use these tools in order to remain safe online.  Teaching your child how to create strong passwords, use blocking features, and examples of what is appropriate as well as inappropriate to post online can help your child to practice internet safety themselves.
  5. Be a good role model.  Oftentimes children mimic the behavior of their parents, as this is how they learn.  Setting examples of appropriate and limited internet use helps to encourage your child to follow the same rules as well.  When establishing a safe internet plan, try to make rules applicable to both children and parents, this helps to develop a strong foundation for internet safety.

Seven Stars is Here to Help

If your teen continues to engage in excessive or inappropriate behavior online despite many failed attempts to get them to change this behavior, it may be time to consider other options.  Seven Stars is a residential program for youth that combines residential treatment and adventure therapy.  Our program is known to be highly effective in treating behavioral issues in teens, such as inappropriate internet usage.  We create individualized plans for each student to ensure their success and focus on their needs.  Our program allows teens the opportunity to reshape their ideas about internet safety and give them a chance to change their behavior. 

For more information about our program at Seven Stars, please call us today at 844-601-1167.