responsible social media habitsMost adults are aware of the potential negative impact the things they post online could have on their personal and professional reputations. Teenagers, on the other hands, are often left out of the equation when we talk about managing your online reputation. Considering the majority of teens are online at least once a day (as reported by a 2015 Pew Research Center study, which determined 94% of teens ages 13 to 17 go online everyday), it’s vital that the adults in their lives help them understand the consequences of posting explicit, violent or otherwise unsavory images or messages. Not only are teens more susceptible to fall into cyberbullying online (either as the victims or the victimizers), but the things they post could impact potential career and educational opportunities. The examples given by celebrities and even some politicians on social media aren’t always the ones you want guiding your teens. If you’ve got a teenager at home, here are some tips to help them learn responsible social media habits.

Teach them to think twice before posting

It might seem obvious, but in today’s world of instant gratification, teens and adults alike can find it all too easy to fire off a post or send a photo without giving it a second thought. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, the Internet is forever, and it can be difficult to downright impossible to redact unsavory posts. Talking to your teen about employing critical thinking when it comes to deciding whether or not to post something is an important first step toward teaching them responsible social media habits. Sometimes the Internet provides its users with a sense of anonymity, which makes it easier to say things that they might not otherwise say face to face. Teens need to understand that it’s possible for the posts they make (and delete) to be traced back to them — and even if it is anonymous, there are still real people on the other side of the screen. You can use real-life examples, such as the model who is now facing criminal charges after sending out a Snapchat shaming another person. Taking a few moments to reread a post or comment or waiting to upload photos until later is a smart step toward preventing online gaffes.

Talk to them about using privacy settings

Since different social media apps and sites each employ their own privacy settings, it’s a good idea to sit down with your teens and talk about the ones they use most frequently and how to protect their posts. Many apps, such as Instagram and Facebook, allow users to set their posts to friends only, ensuring that only those who they have added as friends (or allowed to follow them, in the case of Instagram) can see the content they put up. Not only should teens be aware of the various privacy settings available to them, but you should also discuss the dangers of enabling apps to use geolocation and keeping geotag information in the photos they take and post (which can show someone the exact location the photo was taken, if they know what they’re doing). Certain apps your teen uses may rely on their phone’s GPS being enabled, and while it’s not inherently a bad thing, they should be aware of what’s at risk when it comes to privacy and security when they enable geolocation on their smart devices.

Conduct a Google search together

One tried-and-true method you can use to highlight just how vulnerable your teen is online is to search for their name or frequently used username on a search engine like Google. Depending on how common your teen’s name is, you might wind up sifting through a number of results that aren’t related to them, but chances are there will be at least a couple results that contain their information. This is even more likely if you use their username or email address to conduct your search. Seeing how easy it is for anyone to find their social media profiles or information about them online can be an effective teaching tool and drive home the idea that what they post could be seen by teachers, future or current employers — not to mention identity thieves and other criminals. Even though you might think they are old enough to know better, it’s important to have conversations about what is appropriate to post online and what isn’t.

Consider using parental control software

Although honesty and transparency are certainly helpful when it comes to dealing with teenagers, as a parent you might need to take more action than simply talking with them. Using parental control software to help monitor your teen’s activity online and on their smartphones can provide peace of mind. Top-rated software like Net Nanny and WebWatcher provide social media monitoring so you can keep an eye on what your teens are up to when they get online, as well as allow you to input filters and blocks on certain types of content and language. Although it’s not possible for any program to completely monitor your teen’s social media activity, many can do a great job in bridging the gap between what your teens will tell you and what you need to know to keep them safe. You can even try and use parental control software to work together in teaching your teens responsible social media habits, as many will let you customize the settings to allow more freedom as needed.

One way or another, your teens will learn the necessity of responsible social media habits as they grow into young adults. If it can come from you, it will hopefully prevent them from experiencing any major gaffes which jeopardize their reputation. To learn more about parental control software and protecting your kids online, follow our parental control blog.