By Elizabeth Milovidov, PhD.
Summertime digital safety tips to help your teen.
Well you made it through another school year! Well done!
Your teenager is advancing to the next class level, they’ve survived exams, life is good and summer is here. Pat yourself on the back and give your teen a high five.
Now before you start dancing that summer jig, thinking about frosty blue drinks with paper umbrellas in them (or my personal favorite, an icy glass of rosé), let’s quickly run over some summer tips for you – the super cool, up-to-date and safety-conscious digital parent of a teenager. Yes, I mean you!
It goes without saying that summer is an absolutely fantastic time and many teens slip into easy routines and may slack off a bit. Rules are less visible, life structure is more relaxed and your teen is just trying to recuperate after the school year. (You can remind them of these recuperative summers once they start working a real job.)
But until that high point, as a digital parent of a teen, you still have to help your teen navigate the digital highway – even during the summer months. To make things easier, I’ve compiled the following six summertime digital safety tips.
Turn-off geo-localization. Location apps are great ways to get from A to Z (Google Maps), but you may not always need to broadcast your holiday location on social media. Not to make you paranoid, but take a look at this Huffington Post article detailing how social media increases home thefts.
Sexy selfies. In our day, we took funny polaroids or crammed into picture booths, but today’s teens have smartphones at the ever-ready to ham it up. Those quick pictures taken on the beach or at a party may seem cool at the time, but teens may forget that once posted, those sexy selfies with lots of skin showing (and even a beer can or two) can end up anywhere. (Think of a university recruiter Googling your child’s name and seeing those beach party selfies. I know, “Gasp.”). If you think that you may encounter some difficulty getting your teen to tone it down, you might want to show them this teen video “The dangers of selfies and posting photos online” made by two of my favorites, the Internet Watch Foundation and The Parent Zone.
Don’t post inappropriate pictures of others. Your teen has a great sense of humour and that photo of (insert “inappropriate activity” here) was hysterical. But your teen shouldn’t post pictures of that activity, nor should they forward on any inappropriate photos that they receive. Check out this Parent’s Guide to Instagram for more tips on how to protect your teen’s privacy and photos and how to protect the privacy of others.
Connect safely. Just because your teen is laidback and meeting lots of cool new people over the summer, is no reason to connect right and left. Give them that timeless rule of thumb: a ‘friend’ is someone that you personally know, have shaken their hand, and have had over to the house.
Privacy settings. Have your teen double check those privacy settings and make sure that they are not sharing anything and everything with anyone and everyone. (And if your teen says, ‘Ah mum, I don’t have the time.’ You can graciously remind your teen that school starts in September, not tomorrow. Let me know if it works.)
Maintain a good digital reputation – even over the summer. Your teen can and should enjoy their summer with adventures, spontaneity and even a dab of wildness. But with the ubiquity of Internet, maintaining a good online reputation does not stop and start with the seasons. Remind your teen of the importance of having a good reputation and you can find more great tips from Microsoft, Yahoo and Google in this informative Digital Reputation Guide from the Family Online Safety Institute.
Got enough summer teen tips for digital safety? I certainly hope so. But if you still have a burning question, I would be absolutely thrilled to hear from you.
Enjoy your summer and those little frosty blue drinks!
Dr Elizabeth Milovidov is an eSafety Consultant at European Schoolnet, a European consortium of 30 Education Ministries. She provides support on the ENABLE project (European Network Against Bullying in Learning and Leisure Environments) and other projects aimed at protecting children online. She is a lawyer and law professor, and regularly intervenes as an independent expert on Children’s Rights and the Internet for the Council of Europe.
Click the image below to get Elizabeth’s fabulous free ebook The Ultimate Guide to Parenting in the Digital Age and other great free resources.