How to Protect Your Teen's Privacy Online

Amy Williams
January 22, 2015

The threats teens face are very real: online predators, texting while driving, hackers, illnesses, substance abuses and more.

At times, ensuring a teen’s security can be overwhelming. Frightening reports and headlines often shatter the meager confidence parents have regarding their teen’s physical and cyber safety. Many events in life are left to chance, but parents do have the power to influence a teen’s technology use.

Cyberbullying, Sexting, and OH MY!

Parents used to be primarily concerned with online predators. Today they have to consider a host of other factors lurking behind the touchscreens. These menaces can range from cyberbullying, sexting, and oversharing personal information.

Listed below are some frightening statistics facing teens:

  • 1 out of 3 children will experience cyberbullying.
  • 1 out of every 10 children being cyberbullied seek help from an adult.
  • 27% of teens claim sexting is frequent and normal.
  • Teens who take part in 4 or more negative online activities are more likely to receive requests for sexts or encounters.
  • 58% of teenagers feel that it is safe to post photos or intimate details online.
  • Almost half of all teens do not worry about their online reputation hurting future goals .

Teens, Electronic Media, and Parents

Teens may appear to have all the answers in life, but the reality is they still require adults in their lives who can provide instruction, model positive life skills, and correct negative behaviors.

Here is some good news for parents:

  • Parental awareness has jumped. Only 25% of teens report that their parents are completely in the dark about their Internet activity.
  • Close to half of teens admit that parents have discussed online personal safety.
  • 3 out of 4 parents regularly review the drawbacks to sharing personal information online.
  • Children who have ongoing dialogues about safety and technology are more conscious of over-sharing personal info. 65% of teens who lack this instruction admit to posting details about where they live. Whereas, only 48% of teens with involved parents shared this type of information online.

Safely Promoting Teen Privacy

It is evident that parental involvement can be a great deciding factor when it comes to a teen’s Internet safety.

Honesty is the best method to encourage safety while still allowing teen privacy. Being upfront about parental concerns and laying a secure foundation of guidance, intervention, and proactive measures offer the best hope to raising teens who make good life choices.

Here are 6 suggestions to cultivate teen privacy while offering parents peace of mind:

  1. Develop technology havens. Bedrooms, bathrooms, or the family dinner table are great places to outlaw technology. This offers teens a chance to unplug and possibly prevent inappropriate usage.
  2. Power down at set times every day and night. Choose a designated time to shut off and recharge for the upcoming day.
  3. Create house rules or a contract with your teen about cell phone and technology use. Include the entire family and negotiate the terms to make sure everyone is satisfied.
  4. Limit the amount of data or texts a teen can use. A study from PEW Internet and American Life noticed that teens with limited cell phone plans were less likely to engage in sexting. Surprisingly, this was more of a deterrent than if a parent actively snoops through a phone.
  5. Use a variety of methods to stay informed of your teen’s technology use. Have discussions, friend your child, and use monitoring software to keep all of your child’s accounts accessible in one place.
  6. Remember your teen is still a child. Everyone makes mistakes and part of growing up is learning from those experiences.

Cover image courtesy of Flickr.

Written by

Amy Williams

Amy Williams is a journalist based in Southern California. As a mother of two, she hopes to use her experience as a parent to help other parents raise their children to be the best that they can be.