Teens looking at photos on social media on a tablet device.

Internet safety tips for teens

Between identity theft, cyberbullying, stalking and phishing scams, steer your teen away from internet dangers with this guide to online safety.

Open communication with your child or teen about their social media usage helps teach them about bad habits that could lead to your child's identity being stolen. Even though it may be a difficult conversation, it's an important one to teach them how to use social media safely and still connect with friends online. Ask your teen to walk you through their regular routine when browsing social media. What sites are they visiting regularly and how much time are they spending? Get to know their favorite sites and apps to better understand the risks.

Social media safety for teens

Personal information in the hands of someone with negative intentions can have lasting repercussions. This information can be used to steal your teen's identity impacting their credit history, and pose a risk to their personal safety. Consider the following discussion items when talking with your teen.

Keep your personal information personal

One of the internet safety rules to remind your teen about is to never share personal information without your permission. However, it's equally important to discuss what is considered personal information and why it shouldn't be shared. This may include:

  • Full name With your full name, stalkers can address you as if they're your friend.
  • Birthdate Date of birth is often times used in conjunction with other information to log in to personal sites.
  • Phone number Not only will your phone number allow stalkers to contact you, but your phone number is sometimes used to log in to sites.
  • Location Sharing your address or locations allows people to know where you live.
  • Financial information Combined with the information above, might allow individuals to gain access to your accounts.
  • School name (and school mascot). Listing your school name or mascot not only lets people know where you are, but also can be used by criminals to pretend to be your friend.
  • Social Security number If your Social Security number is exposed, it can potentially allow for your identity to be stolen and/or financial accounts to be opened in your name.
  • Passwords Sharing passwords or sign-ons allows access to all your personal and financial information. If the person you're thinking about is a friend, it's still not a good idea to share passwords because it allows them to pretend to be you.

Watch for social media survey questions

Another thing to watch for is phishing for your personal information. Your teen may see a fun survey being sent from friends asking very specific questions such as:

  • Name of your first pet
  • Street where you grew up
  • Mother's maiden name
  • Name of your childhood best friend
  • Make and model of your first car

As innocent as those quizzes seem, those are commonly used security questions on accounts. Even though your teen knows the people they're friends with, they might not know friends of those friends. Although quizzes seem like good fun, make sure your teen knows they're a way of gathering their personal information.

Sharing photos on social media

It's important to remind your teen that even though the photos only last a few seconds on certain apps, it's long enough for others to take a screenshot. It's very important to talk to your teen about only sharing photos that they wouldn't mind everyone seeing.

The easiest rule of thumb is to have your teen ask themselves, "Would I be okay with this picture being shared with everyone at my school?" If the answer is no, then it's best to not share it. Once a picture is out on the web, it's quite a chore to wipe it from existence.

Talk about the privacy settings

Review the privacy settings provided by the app your teen is using. Make sure your teen has strict privacy settings enabled to protect their photos and updates from strangers. Also ask your teen to only friend people online if they already know them in real life.

Check the application or device location setting. Some apps allow your teen the ability to share their location with friends and pinpoints where their friends are. Be cautious with location features and only share with a preset group of friends, including parents.

Talk about meeting friends made online in person

Share the dangers of an in-person meeting with someone they met online. If allowed, these meetings should require parental permission and a chaperone.

Review what cyberbullying really means

Teach your teen not to post embarrassing photos, send mean texts or spread hurtful rumors through electronics, and to immediately report any cyberbullying they witness. Also take time to learn the signs of bullying so you can recognize if your teen becomes a victim.

Internet safety is not just for your teens; the whole family should understand appropriate internet usage and the risks involved with social media. Review these additional tips for cyber safety, simple ways to bank online safely and safety in making purchases online.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.

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