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Three Ways to Keep Your Teenager Safe on Social Media

A recent study revealed that kids — even those whose closest friends don’t drink or smoke — are more likely to drink or smoke when they see pictures posted online of their social media friends smoking or drinking.

While you can’t ever keep your teen 100% safe online, there are things you can do to mitigate the risk that your child will make unhealthy choices based on social media peer pressure.

Honest Conversations
Begin by realizing that your child faces traditional peer pressures like the ones you faced as a teen, but that a near-constant barrage of social media messages is also influencing him or her 24/7.

Let your teen know that you recognize the pressures (online and off) to drink and smoke, and that you understand how intense those pressures can be.

Listen to what your son or daughter has to say, and keep an open dialogue going with him or her about what’s happening at school, with friends, and online.

Don’t Try to Outsmart Your Teen
If your teenager knows more about technology than you do, attempting to outwit him or her on social media won’t help anyone. Instead, talk with your teen about the benefits and risks of social media use.

Talk about the legal, academic, and social repercussions of sharing inappropriate or illegal pictures and statuses on social media.

Talk about how online actions can affect real-life reputation, and remind your son or daughter that real friendships aren’t based on encouraging risky behaviors or online vulnerability.

Profile Accessibility
Make sure that you know what social media sites your teens uses, and that you have full access to view each of those profiles. Routinely — and openly — sit down with your teen to look at his or her online accounts together. Check security settings, talk about what your son or daughter has recently posted, and encourage your teen to share things with you that they’ve seen and enjoyed lately.

Look together at what your child’s friends are posting, too. Talk to your son or daughter about how those things make him or her feel. Are there friends whose profiles make your child smile, laugh and feel good? What about friends whose pictures and updates make your child feel intimidated, pressured, or “not good enough”?

You’ve helped your child navigate real life pressures and friendships since they were small, and you can help your teen do the same online.

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