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Encouraging positive online behaviour with your teenagers

25 March 2018

Social media is a big part of our lives; and for our children – an even bigger part, as any teenage parent will know. Taking part in online activities can be a positive experience for teenagers, if ground rules are set and attention is paid the details of how your child is using it, where and when.

As a parent, it’s important to be encouraging when it comes to safety and sticking to positive online behaviours.

Here are some ways you can demonstrate positive online behaviour and encourage your teenager to do the same.

Lead by example

Learning how social media works, and engaging with it in a positive way, is a good way to show your child what is and isn't okay to do online. Here’s how to set a good example for them:

  • Keep your own privacy settings up-to-date and show your children how to stay on top of theirs.
  • Think before you post. Before you post, ask yourself whether your comment is constructive.
  • Don’t hide behind your profile picture. Social media isn’t anonymous. Your online reputation will stay with you for a long time. If you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, don’t say it to them online.
  • Give yourself a ‘rule’ about who you’ll connect with on social media, and who you won’t. For example, if you stopped to say ‘hi’ to someone on the street, would you be happy to add them as a Facebook friend?
  • Find topics your family are interested in and talk about them online. Show children how to connect with others safely and respectfully on issues that they care about.
  • Demonstrate respectful conversations online. Explain to kids how some people may have opinions different from yours, but it’s okay. Treat people with the same respect you would show them face-to-face.

Being 'friends' with your teenager online

Being friends on social media with your teenager can be a great for your relationship, allowing you to demonstrate positive behaviours online and create a shared experience. When ‘friending’ your children online, there are a few things you, as a parent or carer, should keep in mind:

  • This is a personal social space. Just like when they hang out with their friends offline, try to give them space and privacy by not liking or commenting on every single thing they post online.
  • Talk offline about their online behaviour. If something happens on your teenager's social media page and you feel that you need to step in, do it offline. It isn’t appropriate to comment on social media about personal issues, and it won’t encourage trust and respect in your relationship. Instead, talk in person about what happened online, and discuss how they could have reacted or responded in a more positive way.
  • Your teenager might not be showing you the whole picture. And it’s okay. Young people are pretty savvy with technology and may have worked out how to block you from seeing some posts. It’s important you respect their privacy, but have a chat if you feel that they’re not being open or transparent enough.

Encouraging positive experiences

Social media is a parallel world where we're all accountable and responsible for our actions. How you act plays an important role in helping your teenager understand the consequences of their behaviour online. You can do this in several ways:

  • Hold them accountable for their actions online.
  • Treat cyberbullying as seriously as bullying in the playground. If you see your child participating in cyberbullying, trolling or other anti-social behaviour online, talk to them face-to-face about their actions.
  • If your child is being bullied online, show them how to block the individual and report it to their school or the police.
  • If you are friends with your children online, bring up things you’ve seen them engage with online and remind them that their online actions impact people in the real world, too.
  • Have a conversation with them about how easy it is to link a profile back to an individual person, even if a fake name is being used.

Reach out logo

ReachOut is Australia's leading online health website for young people and their parents. Working with registered counsellors, psychologists and mental health professionals ReachOut provides online self-help tools that are used by over 1.5 million Australians each year. A valuable resource for many parents, teens and young adults.

If your child, or anyone you know is having issues with self-esteem, confidence or mental or physical health, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

This content includes the views and opinions of a third-party, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Suncorp. Information is intended to be of a general nature only and any advice has been prepared without taking into account any person's particular objectives, personal situation or needs.

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