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"Social Networking" Issues with Teens: Tips for Parents

Social networking sites play an important role in the lives of many teens. Over 60% of 13-17 year olds have at least one profile on a social networking site, many spending more than 2 hours per day on these sites.

Social networking sites can present opportunities to teenagers who participate with them, but like any activity, there are also associated risks. Thus, it is important for moms and dads to help their teens use these sites wisely.

Some potential benefits are: (a) developing and expressing individual identity; (b) developing new social contacts with peers with similar interests; (c) sharing content of self-expression (e.g., art work, music, political views, etc.); and (d) staying connected to friends.

Online social networking can involve new risks such as: (a) vulnerability to predatory adults; (b) sharing too much information; (c) sharing photos or videos that the teenager may later regret; (d) risk of identity theft; (e) reduced amount of time for physical activity; (f) exposure to large amounts of commercial advertisements which may not be age appropriate; and (g) cyber-bullying.

If your teen is thinking about using social networking sites, there are many ways to help him or her use them safely and appropriately. Discuss freely with your teen, and guide him or her by suggesting the following:
  • “Talk to your friend’s parents before considering meeting anyone face to face you have met online to make sure this friend is legitimate.”
  • “Post only information you are comfortable with everyone seeing.” 
  • “Keep your full name, address, telephone number, social security number and bank or credit card number to yourself.”
  • “Keep control of your information by restricting access to your page.”

Teens need support and education to develop the skills needed to understand the risks and opportunities of social networking sites, so talk to your teen before he or she signs up for an account. Things to consider include: (a) the limits on time allowed on these sites that may occur if their usage interferes with family time or external social activities; (b) the monitoring you will do on their internet usage; and (c) the rules in your household regarding social networking sites.

Social networking sites are a widely accepted part of many teens’ lives. However, if you feel that your teenager is spending too much time on these sites or is involved in inappropriate behaviors while using these them, you as the parent will need to set some serious boundaries.

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