According to a 2018 report, 83% of 12- to 15-year-olds own a smartphone, and 99% spend over 20 hours online each week on average (1). Most teenagers’ daily activities include using the internet to play online games, socialize, study, and do their homework. Many times, it also serves as an escape from their real life.
Additionally, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in school closures, home isolation, and hybrid learning, has increased the online presence of children and teens (2).
These data reveal the importance of teaching teens about internet safety. Read this post to learn about internet risks and internet safety for teens.
Internet Risks For Teenagers
Teenagers are vulnerable to various internet or cyber risks due to their prolonged screen time and online presence (2). Some of the internet risks for teenagers are (3) (4) (5):
- Cyberbullying: Your child may become involved in or a victim of online bullying through, for example, videos shared on social networks and digital messaging platforms. Cyberbullying can be quite destructive and is more prevalent among teenagers, peaking at 15 years (6).
- Cyber dating abuse: This cyberbullying involves a partner or ex-partner who uses digital media or insulting or threatening messages to dominate the other in the relationship. Teenage girls are at a higher risk of being victims of cyber dating abuse than boys.
- Sexting: It involves sending images or videos with sexual undertones. It is more prevalent among older children and teenagers, and the prevalence increases with age.
- Online grooming: An adult (or a predator) may groom a minor to act in their favor and obtain sexual material from them or sexually abuse them. This adult could be a stranger or a known person.
- Problematic internet use: If your child overuses online platforms and prefers online social interaction, it may negatively affect their personal life.
- Exposure to inappropriate material: Your child may be exposed to online content that is inappropriate, dangerous, illegal, aggressive, hateful, or sexual.
- Legal and financial: Your child may engage in activities with negative, legal, or financial consequences, such as disclosing your credit card data or intruding on another person’s rights.
- Physical molestation: While socializing online, your child may encounter predators who lure them into meeting in person after gaining their trust, putting their safety at risk.
- Online games: Children and teenagers spend a lot of time in online gaming, potentially resulting in gaming addictions and disorders such as Internet Game Disorder (IGD). Additionally, some Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) allow strangers to communicate, potentially exposing your child to predators (7).
Your child may also be at risk with the following online activities (5)
- Connecting with strangers on chat rooms and social media platforms
- Accepting strangers’ live webcam invitations
- Using the webcam
- Downloading pictures and videos from unknown sites
- Filling out online forms and profiles on untrusted sources
- Arranging face-to-face meetings with online friends
- Posting pictures or comments on blogs and social media platforms
- Responding to threatening or abusive posts or comments
Internet Safety Tips For Teens: Advice For Parents
The internet can be a platform for predators and various cybercrimes; therefore, educating your teens regarding internet safety is crucial. Teachers, parents, caregivers, and counselors play an important role in providing appropriate internet safety rules.
The following are some internet or cyber safety tips to help prevent potential online risks for your teenager (2) (6):
- Supervise their online activity and data usage history, and review the apps and websites they use.
- Practice internet safety yourself, particularly regarding privacy, and teach it to your children (8).
- Set appropriate restrictions over your children’s computer and smartphone use (4).
- Apply “parental controls” and “parental block” tools to prevent your child from visiting inappropriate websites.
- Set limits on your teen’s cell phone data access and keep computers with internet access in a central location in the house, not in their bedroom.
- Teach your children to recognize and interpret information shared or comments made by predators.
- Assist teens in responding effectively to sexual solicitation and cyberbullying.
- If your child is a victim of a cybercrime, reassure them that you will not shut their internet access or take away their cell phones permanently. However, such actions are occasionally necessary for your child’s immediate safety.
- Encourage your child to participate in physical activities and social meetings. This will not only minimize internet risks but also positively impact their life.
- If your child uses your smartphone or computer, create separate accounts to prevent accidental data or file access (9).
- Beware of any signs of cyberbullying or abuse in your child.
- Educate them on internet risks and the potential dangers of sharing information online.
Internet Safety Tips For Teens
Here are some internet safety tips you could offer to your teens (10) (11):
- Analyze all photos and posts before sharing them online
- Always make use of the account’s privacy settings
- Beware of strangers met online
- Avoid getting into suspicious chat rooms
- Be careful while downloading pictures or videos from untrusted sources
- Avoid using provocative names and pictures and posting sensitive information
- Avoid playing games with individuals who seem suspicious
- Avoid using free Wi-Fi connections
- Report to a parent when someone is behaving weirdly or inappropriately or harassing them online
Teenagers are more prone to internet risks because of their extensive online presence. They may be exposed to cyberbullying, sexting, and inappropriate content. Certain online activities, such as connecting with strangers and downloading digital media from unknown sources, can also put your child at risk. Hence, encourage your child to discuss internet safety risks and approach you if they notice any suspicious behavior online.