Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Learning About Supporting Your Teen's Social Life Online
Facebook Tweet Email Share

Main Content

Learning About Supporting Your Teen's Social Life Online

How can you help?

You want your teen to develop healthy friendships, have strong self-esteem, know how to speak up, and recognize harmful behaviour. But in this endless sea of social media, how can you support your teen?

Here are some tips that may help.

  • Keep up with online tools and apps.
    • Ask what apps and games your teen's friends are using.
    • Try some games, apps, or tools yourself.
    • Have your teen use your app store account (so you know when new apps are downloaded).
  • Remind your teen that when something is online, it can and will be shared.
    • Whether it's about a sexy image or a mean comment, use this rule of thumb: If you wouldn't do something in real life, don't do it online.
    • Let them know that people use the internet to research candidates for university, jobs, internships, and sports teams. Ask: Would you hire or recruit someone that posted that?
  • Set limits.
    • Use built-in tools on devices to monitor app usage and screen time.
    • Set up filters on your home network to block offensive content.
    • Ask other parents what they do to set limits and how it has worked for them.
  • Help your teen distinguish real life from fantasy.
    • Encourage your teen to resolve conflict face-to-face. Try to do the same yourself.
    • Sit with your teen, and look at some posts. Have a conversation about the possible motives behind them.
    • Ask: Why do you think that person posted that? Does that image look touched up or filtered? Why do people want to make their life look better than it is?
  • Encourage meaningful interaction.

    It's easy to simply "like" a post or text. But it doesn't always feel thoughtful or personal. And it may not strengthen communication skills or friendships.

    • Encourage your teen to give feedback that goes further, like asking a follow-up question. ("What kinds of animals did you see on your trip?")
    • Focus on the good in posts or texts. (For example: "Wow! You are so talented—you crushed that orchestra audition!")
  • Safeguard against danger.

    You don't want your teen to think that all strangers are bad. But it's important for your teen to be aware that people online aren't always who they say they are.

    • Avoid apps that make contact with strangers easier.
    • Warn your teen not to respond to people they don't know and not to share personal information.
    • If your teen wants to meet an online friend in person, do a little background research together. Be there for the first meeting.
    • Check out www.commonsensemedia.org and www.cybertip.ca for more tips to help your child safely navigate online relationships.
  • Build trust over time.
    • Tell your teen: "My biggest concern is keeping you safe."
    • Let your teen know that everyone makes mistakes online. Encourage them to come to you when they run into something questionable.
  • Allow freedom after trust is established.
    • Take your teen's personality into account, and adjust the rules when they show good judgment.
    • Monitoring too closely isn't likely to build trust. Teens need space to develop their own identity, community, and independence.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter S103 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About Supporting Your Teen's Social Life Online".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.