It might feel hard to talk about the dangers that can be lurking on the internet, but it is important that you do have this conversation. Your children need to know what they should and should not share online and why. There are a few key points that you should make sure that you cover during this conversation:
- They should never give away any personal information, such as which school they go to, to people that they don’t know in real life. Tell them never to post their location publicly.
- Explain that people aren’t always who they say they are on the internet. Someone they meet on social media and speak to for months could be anyone and could be lying about their identity.
- Explain that social media is not reality and is just a highlight reel of people’s lives. Remind them that everybody has bad days, but they don’t usually talk about them on social media. Just because someone’s life appears to be perfect on social media, that doesn’t mean it really is.
- Make sure they know to treat everyone online with respect. They shouldn’t ever engage in online bullying, like name-calling or rude conversations. They shouldn’t post anything, whether a photo, video, or comment, that could end up hurting someone’s feelings.
- Explain what to do if someone, even a friend or a family member, is making them feel uncomfortable online. Let them know that they should come to you and tell you about it as soon as this happens. Explain that you will discuss together what to do about the situation, and reassure them that you won’t make any decisions about it without getting their input.
- Talk to them about the kind of photos that they post. They should know never to post nude pictures or anything that could be seen as suggestive, even if they are sending these pictures to someone that they know and trust. Discuss the possibility of what could happen if photos like that were stolen or shared without their permission.
Talk to them about the effects that overuse of technology can have on their mental health. Make sure you have contacts such as PMHNP on hand if you need them.