3 Serious Online Dangers Teen Face

Teach your teen how to stay safe online.
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Thirty years ago, parents worried about their kids getting hit by a car when riding their bicycles or that they’d get abducted when walking home. These days, parents have yet another facet of society to be concerned with: the Internet.

Approximately 75 percent of teens have a cellphone, according to the Pew Research Group, and half of those are smartphones that can access the Internet. That means, more than ever, that teens are at risk of falling prey to some legitimate online dangers, including cyber bullying, online bullying and damaging their reputation long-term.

Cyberbullying

According to the i-SAFE Foundation, more than half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online and the same number have be the perpetrator of cyberbullying. This is a real threat that can have serious consequences, and it’s harder to spot because teachers and parents don’t often see it occur.

Cyberbullying comes in multiple forms. Sometimes, the bully poses as the victim and says embarrassing things online or sending harassing messages to others. In other cases, they’ll post humiliating or untrue statements or videos about the victim.

If your teen confides in you that she’s the victim of cyberbullying, help her stay safe by teaching her how to use the “block” or “ban” feature on social media; ensure that she never shares her passwords with friends; and, in the most serious cases, keep a record of the bullying (such as emails) as proof and get the police involved.

Predators

It’s easier than ever for a predator to identify your teen online.

The Crimes Against Children Research Center say that around 4% of children and teens have received “aggressive” sexual solicitations that attempted to meet the youth offline. Some lessons on privacy can help your teen stay safe.

When your teen signs up for a social media site (including ones that he might only use on his smartphone), look at it together and adjust the privacy settings so strangers aren’t able to access their profile.

Caution your teen about things that should never be posted on social media, such as your address and phone number.

You can also create family rules about posting images online. Occasionally, double-check your teen’s “friend list” to make sure he’s only communication with people he knows “in real life.”

Don’t forget that not all predators are sexual. Teach your teen how to recognize a scam (particularly financial scams) so he doesn’t get into deep water because of lack of knowledge.

Damaged Reputations

Most teens aren’t mature enough to realize that what they post today can affect their reputation tomorrow and beyond. Enforce strict rules about posting photos that display nudity or provocative clothing, drug or alcohol use or other illegal activity. Adjust privacy settings so your teen’s friends can’t “tag” him in these photos, either.

Your teen probably may minimize how damaging a few social media posts can be to his reputation, so print out articles about college admissions advisors and potential employers researching candidates’ online presence before making decisions.

Athletic coaches and other decision-makers important in your teen’s life might make decisions based on social media presence. If it shows your teen making unsound decision, his extracurricular activities could be at risk.

The most important lesson for your child to learn: Nothing on the Internet is private. There are no “take-backs.” Even if you delete photos or status update, technology is such that it might have already been shared with others, screenshotted onto a friend’s phone or saved onto a stranger’s desktop computer. The best way to help your teen maintain a good online reputation is to teach him to think twice before he posts anything.

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