In today's connected world, your teen is likely to spend a lot of time online. Finding the right balance between technology and other activities can be a challenge during these years.
Technology is for learning and fun, but it’s also important to think about potential risks. While they gain online independence, you are still key in keeping your teen safe. Conversations, being a good role model, and guiding their online experience help ensure their well-being.
This page will provide information and guidance to help you and your teen navigate their digital life.
- Have regular conversations
- Set boundaries and be a role model for healthy behaviour
- How to know if information online is reliable and correct
- Pornography and other inappropriate content
- Social media: the positives and negatives
- Personal information and privacy
- Online sexual harassment
- Further resources
Creating a space of trust and openness is important when you talk to your teen about their online experiences.
- Help them feel at ease sharing what is happening and any thoughts or concerns they might have, no matter the situation.
- Encourage your teenager to confide in you if they encounter anything distressing.
Here are some conversation starters you could try:
- "I heard about this new app/website/game called [Name]. Have you heard of it? What are your thoughts?"
- "Have you ever seen someone being treated badly or bullied online? How did it make you feel?"
- "Have you ever had a chat with someone online who wasn't who they said they were? How did you handle it?"
Our video series Connected Families has lots of helpful information about online safety for children and teenagers.
Devices are everywhere in your teen's life, from phones to smart gadgets and online games. It can be difficult for them to take a break from screens.
With so much online connection, gaming, and exploring, excessive use may lead to an internet addiction or gaming addiction. Discover tips to support your teen’s online wellbeing and look out for potential risks and signs of internet addiction:
- Hiding online activity
- Neglecting other hobbies
- Getting angry without the internet
Teach your teen to use the internet in a smart and balanced way.
- Set healthy limits and be a positive online role model. Balancing technology with real-life experiences is key to their overall well-being and mental health.
- Create a family technology time plan, deciding when screens go off and promoting respectful online behaviour.
- Be a role model by putting away devices during meals.
- Encourage offline activities, like hanging out with friends and staying active, to maintain a healthy balance.
- Encourage your teen to control notifications so they can focus on their tasks.
- Check the suitability of games and apps. Common Sense Media offers age-related reviews and advice on suitability.
Making sure that the information you and your teen find online is trustworthy is important in today's digital world.
Empower your teen to:
- Confidently make informed decisions and recognise trustworthy sources from misleading content.
- Create a sense of healthy doubt and encourage the practice of fact-checking.
- Choose reputable websites, read customer reviews, and potential risks associated with online purchases.
- Recognise suspicious messages and personal information requests.
Engage your teen with thought-provoking questions:
- "Where do you usually turn to for information online? How do you decide if it's trustworthy?"
- "Which games and apps do you trust and enjoy the most?"
To help your teen understand the reliability of online information, use resources like BBC Bitesize's "Media Literacy" which offers awareness of content trustworthiness. Internet Matters also provides a hub for help and advice around fake news and misinformation.
Discussing sensitive topics with your teen is important. They might stumble upon explicit content online, including:
- Violent images
- Hate speech or self-harm
It's essential to have an open conversation about it. Empower your teen by supporting and guiding rather than criticising them. This helps them to tackle online challenges confidently and make responsible decisions.
Make sure your teen knows why and how to report any inappropriate or illegal content they come across. The following websites provide information about online safety, including resources to help teens understand and manage inappropriate content.
Social media for teens is a way to have fun, show their creativity, and stay connected. But the constant images, updates and likes can make it tough for them to step away.
It's good for sharing but can also make them compare themselves and affect their self-esteem. People usually only show the good things, which can make your teen feel like they need to fit in or they're not good enough.
Talk to your teen about this. Explain that social media often shows the best parts, not the whole picture. Tell them to be aware of their feelings while looking at posts and remind them that everyone has ups and downs.
Encourage activities that boost their self-esteem offline:
- Pursuing hobbies
- Spending time with supportive friends
- Setting realistic goals
Make sure they know how to handle any negative experiences too, like dealing with online trolls or bullies.
These short video clips from Childnet show teenagers talking about self-esteem and the role the internet and social media play.
Online interactions can sometimes lead to dangerous situations. Adults may pose as teenagers and ask to share personal photos or meet in person. Your teen may also be at risk of falling victim to online scams.
The UK Safer Internet Centre has lots of information and guidance for 11–19-year-olds about internet safety.
Being aware of these risks is the first step in helping your teenager to manage them.
- Guide your teenager in setting privacy settings and caution them about sharing personal information.
- Teach your children the importance of using strong, unique passwords for their accounts. Consider using a password manager to keep track of passwords securely.
- Talk about the risks of public Wi-Fi and online dating.
- Install reputable antivirus software on devices to protect against malware and other threats.
- Be a responsible online user yourself, sharing experiences. Encourage them to do the same.
- Educate them about both the potential risks associated with video chats and live streaming.
- Help them understand that the internet has a lasting memory. Posting inappropriate pictures or content online, sexting or sharing information with friends, may humiliate themselves or others.
- Make them aware of potential risks associated with buying items online. Teenagers might accidentally agree to unfair contracts, subscriptions, or terms and conditions that could expose them to identity theft and fraud.
- Teach them to always ask for permission before sharing anything involving others online.
Being active online can sometimes expose your teen to bullying, trolling, and isolation. Recognising signs and addressing this is important for your teen's online safety and well-being.
Signs of cyberbullying to look out for:
- Shifts in mood, withdrawal from online activities, or sudden reluctance to use devices.
- Signs of distress, anxiety, or sadness after being online.
- Becoming secretive about their online interactions.
What to do about cyberbullying:
- Create an environment where your teen feels comfortable discussing their online experiences.
- Encourage them to save any hurtful messages, posts, or images as evidence.
- Teach them how to block the bully and report the behaviour on social media platforms.
Preventing your teen from being a bully:
- Help them understand the real-life consequences of their online actions.
- Encourage empathy by discussing how their words and actions can affect others.
- Monitor their online activity and set clear guidelines for respectful behaviour.
- Demonstrate kindness and respect in your own online interactions.
This article from UNICEF provides further advice and information about cyberbullying, what is it and how to stop it.
Online sexual harassment is when someone, usually another young person uses digital platforms to engage in unwelcome and inappropriate sexual behaviour. It includes sending explicit messages, sharing inappropriate content, or making unwanted sexual comments. It's a form of cyberbullying and can seriously harm your teen's well-being.
If your teen experiences online sexual harassment, here's what you can do:
- Create an environment where your teen feels comfortable talking to you about their online experiences.
- Advise your teen to save any messages, screenshots, or evidence of the harassment.
- Teach your teen how to block the harasser and report the behaviour.
- Offer emotional support to your teen and let them know that they are not alone in dealing with this situation.
Online resources for help and information:
Online grooming is when an adult or older person builds an online relationship with a young person and manipulates them into doing something sexual like sexting.
Educate your teenager about the potential dangers of online grooming and empower them to handle and report any suspicious interactions they may encounter.
By embracing your role as a supportive and informed parent in your teenager's online world, you are helping your teen to navigate their online experiences responsibly, safely, and with confidence.
If you sense something might be wrong, don't ignore your gut feeling.
- Reassure them you're a reliable source of support.
- Approach the conversation calmly.
- Ask for specifics and enquire about any adults involved.
Should you suspect online grooming or exploitation, report your worries to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Safety Centre. CEOP is a part of the National Crime Agency and can conduct investigations to ensure the safety and overall well-being of your teen.
Thinkuknow: Explains what to do if you have concerns about your child online and how to report. Includes Home Safety Online Activities for your family.
Parent Zone: Resources and workshops on digital parenting, including online safety and managing screen time
Internet Matters: Advice and guides for teens and parents.
UK Safer Internet Centre: Resources specifically designed for young people aged 11-19 around online knowledge.
Childnet: Online safety tips and guidance designed specifically for teens.
The Swaddle: How to spot and deal with internet addiction in teens.
Young Minds: Help and advice around mental health
The Mix: UK’s leading support service for young people under 25. Help young people take on any challenge they are facing via online, free, confidential helpline.
The NHS also has guidance on what to do if you are worried about your teen’s emotional and mental health: When to use CAMHS