What teenagers get out of being cybercitizens
Teenagers see the online environment as a place to share, create and learn.
When they’re online, teenagers can be social and collaborative. For example, websites like Facebook are social forums that allow teenagers to maintain local and long-distance friendships. The ‘culture of sharing’ on the internet also helps teenagers feel connected to a larger global community, and can even enhance their existing relationships.
The internet offers teenagers opportunities to be expressive. They can create their own online worlds by joining groups, commenting on the online profiles of their peers, and posting photos and videos of themselves and their friends.
Finally, the internet lets teenagers be proactive. It can give them good access to news and health information, and many turn to the internet first to find out about themselves and the world.
How to be a safe and responsible ‘cybercitizen’
There are ways to encourage your child to be safe online. Start by talking together about:
- considering privacy – as a general guideline, if your child wouldn’t say or do something in front of a live audience, she shouldn’t say or do it online
- creating respectful online communities by treating online friends with as much respect as those he meets face-to-face and not getting involved in bullying behaviour
- agreeing not to post provocative photos of herself or others. It’s also smart to avoid posing for inappropriate photos in real life (such as at parties) as someone else might post them online without permission
- remembering that it’s often hard to ‘read’ emotion in emails, and jokes can easily be misinterpreted. Using emoticons like smiley faces can help
- being cautious about identity, because not everyone online is who they say they are
- deleting rude or nasty comments made on her profile pages
- blocking or ‘unfriending’ people who don’t treat him with respect. This will send the message that it’s not OK to mistreat or bully someone online
- sharing only as much information as necessary – it’s not compulsory to enter your year of birth, mobile number, email address, or city on all web forms
- being careful with photos she uploads – some phones and cameras add data to the photo that identifies where and when it was taken, so she could be accidentally sharing more details than she’d planned
- keeping privacy settings up to date on social networking sites, so his profile isn’t publicly available. It’s also important to keep an eye on the privacy settings on sites that let users post their location. For example, it’s a good idea to make sure only his friends can see him ‘checking in’ at a cafe or shop.
Risky online behaviour
It’s easy to feel anonymous online, and impulsive teenagers sometimes say or do things on the internet they would never do in person. But photos, comments and videos shared online are much harder to get rid of than in real life.
In fact, this kind of content can remain online permanently. Uploading content to the internet creates an ‘online reputation’, or digital footprint, which is very hard to change or erase.
If all else fails, encourage your child to remember the ‘Nanna rule’: ‘If you wouldn’t want your nanna to see it, don’t put it online’.
Concerns and facts about teenagers and internet use
You might be concerned about the following issues in relation to your child’s internet use. It helps to know some facts:
Online harassment or cyberbullying: this can be a problem for teenagers online, so read about steps to take in our article on cyberbullying.
Paedophilia: fortunately, cases of paedophiles trying to contact teenagers online are rare.
Online relationships versus real-life friendships: most teenagers do a good job of balancing time online with real-world interests such as school, family and sport.
Internet addiction: a recent study found that nearly 80% of surveyed teenagers said they ‘never’ or only ‘sometimes’ had a hard time staying away from the internet for several days at a time.