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There’s no denying that the internet is a powerful tool. It’s important for teens to learn how to use the internet to their advantage– exploring their passions and interests, doing research, using it in their school work, knowing how to communicate with a professional tone, building a positive online image, sharing their work online and networking with others, and using the internet to find job opportunities, apply to college, and find apartments when it’s time for them to live out on their own. There are endless opportunities that the internet has to offer, even if it’s just a place to unwind and catch up with friends after a long day, but there’s always the danger of the internet and social media getting in the way of their success. For all of the benefits technology has to offer, there are dangers. While it’s important to have an online presence, especially for people who want to share their ideas, art, or even start an online business, there’s the danger of abusing social media. Teens are particularly likely to mistreat social media, share inappropriate content, and ultimately suffer the consequences.
The Dangers of Social Media
It happens all the time. Teens posting statuses and pictures that include underage drinking, drug use, nudity, or hurtful language. A lot of the time that inappropriate behavior goes unnoticed and unpunished, but there’s always the risk that it can hurt their reputation, be seen by a potential employer, college admissions office, or be reported to authorities if it’s particularly serious.
It could cost them a friendship, a job, or acceptance into the school of their dreams. Even something as seemingly insignificant as complaining about a coworker, boss, teacher, friend, or significant other can get blown way out of proportion and have many serious consequences and many teens don’t recognize the risk of posting inappropriate content until it’s too late.
Cyberbullying is another huge problem that comes along with social media. The majority of teens will experience cyberbullying in some form, whether they’re directly involved or a bystander, and a lot of cases will never be reported. If cyberbullying goes unaddressed, it can have disastrous consequences including mental health problems like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and thoughts of suicide.
Supervising and Limiting Your Child’s Activity Online
You want your child to be happy and safe in every aspect of their life, which for a lot of kids includes their social media presence. If you notice that technology might be causing more harm than help for you child, you might look into limiting their exposure to social media. This could be as simple as talking to them about looking at their phone less or spending less time on their computer, setting rules about not sharing personal information online (or sharing less and censoring what they do share), having them adjust their privacy settings so that online friends can view their profiles, or going as far as monitoring their online and smartphone activity if you’re concerned that their safety is at risk.
Privacy is important and should be respected, but when your child’s safety is at risk it may be necessary to step in even if it means sacrificing their privacy to some degree. If you’re concerned that you child is talking to potentially dangerous strangers online and sharing personal information or they’re involved in cyberbullying to some degree and talking to them isn’t working, monitoring their social media use may be the only way to keep them safe. When you sacrifice your child’s privacy to monitor their behavior there’s always the potential that it could hurt the trust you have for each other, for a while at least, but the alternative of letting them continue risking their safety can ultimately have much greater consequences.