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Being on social media can be a really positive experience for you and your teenager. Here are some ways you can demonstrate positive online behaviour and encourage your teenager to do the same. 

Lead by example

Learning how social media works, and engaging with it in a positive way, is a great way to show your child what is and isn't okay to do online.

  • Keep your own privacy settings up-to-date and show your children how to stay on top of theirs
  • Think before you post. Ask yourself if your comment is constructive before you post.
  • Don’t hide behind your profile picture. Social media is not anonymous. Your online reputation will stay with you for a long time. If you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, don’t say it to them online.
  • Give yourself a ‘rule’ about who you connect with on social media, and who you do not. For example, if you would stop and say hi to them on the street, you will add them as a Facebook friend. This helps to demonstrate boundaries in the online world.
  • Find topics your family are interested in and talk about it. Take the conversation online by commenting on a group or page about the topic, and show your children how to connect with others safely and respectfully on issues that they care about.
  • Demonstrate respectful conversations online. Show your child that some people may have different opinions to you. Treat people with the same respect you would give them face-to-face and report troll-like or bullying behaviour instead of engaging with it.

Being 'friends' with your teenager online

Being friends with your teenager on social media can be a very positive thing. It can help you demonstrate positive behaviours online, and creates a shared experience. When ‘friending’ your children online, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • This is a personal social space. Just like when they hang out with their friends offline. Try to give them space and privacy by not liking or commenting on every single thing they post online.
  • Talk offline about their online behaviour. If something happens on your teenager's social media page and you feel like you need to step-in, do it offline. Commenting on social media about personal issues is not really appropriate, and won’t encourage trust and respect in your relationship. Instead talk in person about what happened online and how they could react or respond in a more positive way.
  • Your teenager might not be showing you the whole picture. That’s okay. Young people are pretty savvy with technology, and they may have worked out how to block you from seeing some posts. It’s important that you respect their privacy, and have a chat with them if you feel that they are not being open or transparent enough.

Encouraging positive experiences

Social media is no longer an abstract space for computer whizzes, it is a parallel world where we are accountable and responsible for our actions. If you log-on and start abusing 'Sharon' the local news reader for wearing an ugly dress on the morning news, you're showing your child that it's okay to abuse people in the real world.

You play an important role in helping your teenager understand the consequences of their behaviour online. You can help to do this by:

  • Holding them accountable for their actions online.
  • Treating cyberbullying as seriously as bullying in the playground. If you see your child participating in cyberbullying, trolling, or other anti-social behaviour online, talk to them face to face about their actions.
  • If your child is being bullied online, show them how to block the individual and report it offline, with their school or the police.
  • If you are friends with your children online, bring up things you have seen them engage with in the online space, to remind them that their online actions impact people in the real world too.
  • Have a conversation with them about how easy it is to link a profile back to an individual person, even if a fake name is being used.     

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