Some facts about a teenager’s private life should never go online.
Adults may know that posting “I’m leaving town for a week!” on Facebook is not safe. But teenagers who like to share everything aren’t always as safety-minded.
“Teenagers forget that every time they post something online, it can get passed around to people they don’t know,” says Jeffrey Rothweiler, PhD, a clinical child psychologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “They don’t always remember that once information is out there, they can’t take it down.”
It’s not just details about family vacations that teenagers have a hard time keeping off social media, Dr. Rothweiler adds.
“It’s easy to feel like no one knows who you are online,” he says. “Teenagers may feel free to say what they think and feel. But they should know that others might get hurt or say hurtful things in response.”
Encourage teens to think about the future when they share things about themselves electronically. A teenage boy may think it’s harmless to text a picture of his body to his girlfriend when their relationship is good. But if the relationship ends badly, his girlfriend may post the picture online to be mean.
“I often ask kids, ‘Would you be comfortable if your grandmother or future employer saw this?’” Dr. Rothweiler says. “If the answer is yes, it’s OK to share. If the answer is no, don’t put it online.”
Parents should also keep an eye on what their teens are sharing.
“Friend your child on all her social media accounts,” Dr. Rothweiler says. “Parents should also have passwords to these accounts.”
Call the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Family Resource Center at 314.454.KIDS (5437) and press “5” for more tips on internet safety.