With our kids spending increasing amounts of time on the Internet, use these tips to ensure that your teen is surfing the web safely.

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The Internet has transformed the way we live, providing knowledge about virtually any subject at the click of a button (or in this case, a mouse). It has made it easier for people to stay in touch, and even meet, through E-mail and social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter. High School teens at one time would bug their parents by staying on the phone with their friends for hours, now they spend majority of their time on their laptops -  chatting with their friends on IM, updating their Facebook status, downloading music on Itunes, and watching their favorite shows online. While teens may gain many benefits from this online community, it comes with many dangers as well. If they aren’t careful, they could risk their privacy, reputation, and even physical safety.

Many teens, and even adults, don’t realize that despite the Internet’s fast pace, it has a long memory. Once something is posted on the Internet, it is preserved long after it disappears from our Newsfeeds on Facebook or is deleted. What teens write on their Facebook pages or tweet on Twitter is perceived as an extension of their personality, and sets their reputation. A Facebook Profile shows the world what activities they like to do, movies they like to watch, music they listen to, events they go to, who their friends are, etc. An inappropriate picture or post can affect your teen’s reputation, not to mention their future. According to a survey conducted by Kaplan in 2010, 82% of college admissions officers use Facebook to recruit students, and based on a previous Kaplan survey, 38% of admissions officers saw something that “negatively affected” their opinion of the applicant. An interviewer for Harvard admitted that seeing a Facebook profile definitely affects her image of the applicant before meeting them. Furthermore, according to a prior Oregon Business Report, 45% of employers use social networking sites such as, Facebook and Twitter, to screen candidates.

Here are 7 tips to ensure Internet safety:

1. Have an agreement with your teen on what is okay to post

Explain to your teen that suggestive or inappropriate material will reflect poorly on them, and could affect not only college admissions but future jobs as well.

 2. If your teen wouldn’t do it in real life, they shouldn’t do it online

If they wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, they shouldn’t text, IM, or post it.

3. Encourage your teen to ask questions

Tell your teen to question each source they come across, “Who posted this?” and “Why did they post this?” This will ensure that sources they find for research or school assignments is accurate.

4. Stay in safe neighborhoods

Your teen knows not to walk on the bad side of town alone and at night; the same applies to the internet and unsafe or creepy websites.

5. Make sure that your teen feels comfortable telling you if anything bad or cruel happens online

Talk to your teen to make sure they know that they can come to you if they come across anything disturbing or uncomfortable for them, no matter what site they were on.

6. Check your privacy settings

Remind your teens to check the privacy settings for all their profiles and set it so only friend can see them

7. Don’t talk to strangers

Although this seems like an obvious one, people often think the Internet has its own set of rules. Tell your teens not to open emails from strangers, or accept friendship requests from people they don’t know. Also remind them that people aren’t always who they say they are online. 


Want to read the other parts of the three-part School Safety Series? 

Click here to read Part II: Sharing the Road with School Buses 

Click here to read Part I: Playgrounds

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