Teenagers use digital technologies for everyday activities like keeping in touch with friends on social media, relaxing and doing schoolwork. They also go online to look for support for physical or mental health problems, and sometimes to experiment with different ways of expressing themselves.
Because they’re online so much without your supervision, teenagers need to be able to identify acceptable and unacceptable online content independently. They also need to know how to behave respectfully online and avoid online risks.
For teenagers, these risks include coming across material that they might find upsetting, disgusting or otherwise uncomfortable, especially if they encounter it accidentally. This material might include:
- real or simulated violence
- hate sites
- terrorist sites
- harmful user-generated content like sites about drug use, self-harm, suicide or negative body image.
These risks include coming into contact with adults posing as children online or with strangers who persuade teenagers to meet them in real life, or becoming the victim of online scammers.
Conduct risks include behaving in inappropriate or hurtful ways, or being the victim of this kind of behaviour. Examples include:
- misusing people’s passwords and impersonating people online
- making unauthorised purchases using other people’s financial details
- creating content that reveals information about other people
- having trouble regulating online time, which can develop into problem internet use.
Your child is probably an independent internet user now, but you can help her keep building the skills and knowledge she needs to identify and manage internet safety risks.
Here are some basic things you can do to protect your child from internet safety risks:
- Create a family media plan. It’s best to negotiate your plan with your child. Your plan could cover things like screen-free areas in your house and what online behaviour is OK.
- Talk with your child about upsetting and inappropriate content.
- Stay in touch with what your child is doing online and how much time she’s spending online.
- Ask your child to ‘friend’ you on social media.
- Encourage and remind your child to explore and use the internet safely.
- Find out how to make complaints about offensive or illegal online content.
Technical internet safety tools like internet filters can actually increase risk for children over 14 years. If children are using filters at this age, they might not be developing the skills they need to avoid disturbing content. They might take risks either accidentally or on purpose when they use the internet in unfiltered environments.
It’s important to help your teenage child manage internet safety risks for herself. This lets your child build digital resilience, which is the ability to respond positively and deal with risks she comes across online.
You can do this by:
- being a role model for healthy internet use
- talking with your child about online content and behaviour
- reminding your child about privacy and personal information
- teaching your child about online purchases.