6 Ways You Can Keep Your Teen from Posting Something They’ll Regret

Teenagers are known for pushing boundaries. They’re searching for their independence, making decisions for themselves, and pulling away from their parents. But many teens are still developing emotionally, meaning they may be more prone to making impulsive decisions.

Those choices have real consequences, especially online. A 2013 study conducted by Pew Research Center showed that 19 percent of teens have posted things online they regret, and that percentage is likely much higher now.

According to one study, a lot of factors go into online safety for kids—including mental health, online crime, and cyberbullying regulation. So how do you navigate all those points and help your teenager avoid posting something online they’ll regret later? Follow the tips below.

  1. Listen without Judgement

Staying close to your teenager can be difficult because teens often reject perceived parental interference. By helping them feel acknowledged and validated and respected at home, you can reduce the likelihood that they’ll depend on outside sources for validation.

When teenagers make offhand comments about their day, they’re often trying to reach out. Stop what you’re doing and make eye contact as you engage with them. Don’t be dismissive. Showing empathy, reflecting the comment back, and acknowledging them is important.

  1. Give Praise and Encouragement

When children are younger, we tend to praise them for a job well done. But teens need self-esteem boosts, too. Look for opportunities to give encouragement to your teen—they may act like they don’t care what their parents think, but they still want your approval.

Encouraging them will help your relationship grow, especially if you’re going through a rough patch. If your teen feels appreciated, they’ll be a lot more willing to have conversations (and hear feedback) about online behavior.

  1. Discuss Online Usage Directly

Ask your teen about what they’re posting online and how they’re using social media apps. Review with them that even sharing something with friends can be forwarded outside their trusted circle, and once something is sent, they can’t really take it back or erase it.

Some teens don’t understand that unkind posts or compromising videos or photos could hurt their reputation down the line, so talk to them about how colleges and employers could have access to that digital footprint.

  1. Review Their Connections

Social media is a great tool for connecting with friends, but lots of kids today are connected with users they haven’t met in person before, which isn’t safe. Remind your teen that their followers should be people they have a relationship with and know, and if they have questions about certain people, they should ask you.

Help them understand their followers and friends may not make the best decisions when it comes to re-sharing digital messages or pictures. Walk through how they’d feel about putting the decision-making power in someone else’s hands when sharing a picture intended only for a few friends.

  1. Establish a Family Agreement

Allowing your teen to see that the entire family sees internet safety as an important issue in the home will help them see how important it is to keep information private. Here are some points to include:

  • Do not share sensitive information. Everyone should refrain from sharing full names, social security numbers, birthdates, phone numbers or addresses.
  • Avoid posting when you’re emotional. If you’re sad or upset or mad, those emotions don’t belong online. Talk to a family member or a friend.
  • Think before you post. Ask yourself if you would want this picture or post to be on the internet forever. Even if you’re using an app that deletes after a few seconds, the post could still stay online.
  1. Take Breaks from Social Media

Having never-ending access to hundreds of apps and millions of people makes social media enticing to both teens and adults, so set that access aside from time to time. Making room for digital downtime will help you and your teen grow your relationship, and it will also remind them that social media isn’t the whole world.

Put the phones away for an afternoon, or pledge to have a no technology week and schedule activities outside for the family. Giving your teens time away from their digital world can help them see they don’t have to be tethered to it at all times—life really does happen offline. 

Following these tips can help your teen choose to use social media and online apps in a responsible way, and you can feel safe knowing they’re making the right choices online.

Contributor: Hilary Bird is a digital journalist who writes about the things that fascinate her the most: relationships, technology, and how they impact each other. As more and more people become more and more reliant on their tech devices, Hilary wants to help them stay safe and understand how these devices will reshape the way we communicate.