Youngsters’ online lives

The majority of teenagers live out a large part of their social lives online. It’s a place where they talk to their friends, watch movies, listen to music and learn about a variety of subjects. But there are also a lot of online pitfalls too, of course, and it’s important that you, as a parent, keep a look out and teach your teenager how to handle and avoid them.

USING ALCOHOL TO BUILD AN IMAGE

Partying and alcohol are common themes when young people are creating their image on social media. For many of them, showing themselves in settings with alcohol signals that they have an outgoing, successful lifestyle. This means that young people who use social media such as Snapchat, Instagram or follow famous role models, often encounter posts where young people are drinking alcohol.

My friends drink a lot when I’m out with them because they know I’ll take care of them when they’re drunk and throwing up, and stuff.

Stella, aged 16, Gothenburg

HELP YOUR TEENAGERS LOOK AFTER THEMSELVES

Most millenials watch YouTube, listen to music, and chat to other people online. Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok are the most popular social media – Facebook, less so. Virtually all young people also play games or watch other people playing – boys commonly do this on a daily basis. It’s important that teenagers can handle themselves in the digital world, because it’s such a natural part of young people’s lives.  Talk to your teenager about how important it is to protect their integrity and not to hurt anyone else’s feelings or allow themselves to be hurt. That they shouldn’t, for example, write nasty things about people, post pictures of someone else without their permission or do things in other people’s names. You should also make it clear to them that not everything written and said online is true.

REMEMBER THAT EVERYTHING IS POTENTIALLY PUBLIC

Social media keeps on expanding and different channels cooperate with one another. Which means that you can end up sharing your pictures and thoughts with a virtually unlimited number of people. Anything you post online can stay around for a very long time and it’s often very difficult to get rid of it. Even if the picture is deleted, you have no control over who may have used it or shared it. This is why it’s so important to understand what posting something actually means and why it’s a good idea to discuss with your teenager what is – and is not – appropriate.

BE CURIOUS AND INTERESTED

A lot of teenagers feel that their parents don’t always keep up with what’s happening or know how the Internet works. And this can mean they avoid turning to adults if they run into problems. This is why it’s important to get involved and talk about what your child is doing online, just as you would ask them how their day went, for example. You could also check out some of the places where a lot of young people hang out and familiarie yourself with how these channels work. Or even ask your child for help – it shows that you’re interested and that you’re there for them if something’s gone wrong. Remember that even if your child knows more about the online world than you do, you’re still the one who has the greatest experience of norms, rules, and dangers.

SET THE RULES

It can be good to know how the various forms of social media work and what you can do if your child runs into trouble. But as the parent, you’re the one who decides what is OK and what isn’t. Be clear about what you think is appropriate – it’s never a good idea, for example, for them to visit sites that are not appropriate for young people. A lot of social media sites require some personal information as security or to give access to the site. Talk about the sort of information they should share, and about how and when it’s appropriate to share personal information. One tip is to decide that your teenager is not allowed to provide personal details such as their address, school, or  phone number, or to post videos and pictures of themselves, without checking with you first.

IF YOUR TEENAGER GETS IN TROUBLE

Many young people seek appreciation by posting pictures or texts about themselves online. This makes them vulnerable, which can be exploited by others. Online hate speech is increasingly widespread among young people, as is adults initiating contact with young people in order to commit sexual abuse or assault. This can happen on sites or games with chat forums, and both girls and boys are subjected to it. If you find out that your child has been exposed to or the victim of something online, it’s important to be truly supportive. Teenagers are often filled with regret when something has happened and they realise the consequences. Be clear that you’re there for them, that you can help them, and that it’s not too late to ask for help – even if something has already happened. Whatever the issue is, try not to judge. If whatever has happened is unacceptable, you should report it. Most social media sites allow you to report pictures, videos or comments. If what has happened involves something illegal, then it’s important you report it to the police. You can also, to the extent that it’s possible, talk to those involved.

Haters are going to hate if you say no. They’ll take the piss out of you on social media, and stuff like that.

Emanuel, aged 16, Umeå

ALCOHOL-RELATED ADVERTISING AND MESSAGES

Social media has created new ways for alcohol-related advertising and messages of reaching out to young people. The Internet offers previously unimaginable opportunities for anyone marketing beer, wine and spirits. Teenagers are often exposed to alcohol advertising, even if targeting this kind of advertising at people under the age of 25 is illegal. Many teenagers also receive alcohol messages from their older friends or the influencers they follow on social media, for example. The Swedish Consumer Agency is the authority responsible for supervising alcohol advertising, you can approach them with your questions or to report advertising that you think may be improper.

IT’S ALSO A SOURCE OF ALCOHOL

A fairly new but nonetheless worrying trend is alcohol being sold through social media, and the alcohol in question is often smuggled. It’s relatively easy for a teenager to use a social network to get ahold of beer, wine or spirits. Posting a request on Snapchat, for example, tends to result pretty quickly in “tips” from someone who knows someone. There are also anonymous accounts, on Instagram for example, run by dealers, who can be contacted by young people who want to buy spirits or beer. As a parent, it’s important that you’re aware of this. If you come across an account that you suspect is selling alcohol, it’s easy to report the account directly to Instagram. Talk to your teenager about alcohol sales via social media too. Explain why you don’t want your child to buy from these accounts and that people who do, are supporting criminal activity and exposing themselves to substantial risks.

More to read about the same topic

The teenage years

The teenage years are a very special time in your child’s life. Teenagers are navigating the frontier lands between childhood and adulthood and there are a lot of new things to handle: school, friends, being allowed to stay out late, sex, parties and – not least – alcohol.

Useful contacts and more info

It can sometimes be good to talk to someone who knows a bit more about teenagers and alcohol, or about anything else, for that matter.

If you want to do more

There’s a lot you can do to support and be there for teenagers. Maybe you can take part in night-time patrols, or make it easier for them to say “no”, or help promote a smarter approach to alcohol in some other way.

Other important topics to read about

Teenagers and alcohol

There are many considerations that can easily arise when your child becomes a teenager. But first and foremost: how do young people think about drinking themselves? And why is it more dangerous to drink alcohol in adolescence than as an adult?

Take responsibility

Maybe you sometimes feel pretty helpless as a parent. But there’s a lot you can do. As always showing that you care, that you’re there and that you are happy to listen. And often it’s important to be clear about what you expect of your teenager.

If parents are not around

Festivals, home parties and trips abroad are examples of situations where adults are rarely present. There are some pitfalls that you, as a parent, should be aware of and that you can teach your teenager how to handle.

Yes or no?

The clearer you communicate your expectations, the easier it is for your teenager to take a stand or do what you say. Also, think about what sort of message and values you’re conveying to your child.

Teenager’s drinking habits

Not only is it illegal to buy alcohol for young people, but most adults think that alcohol is something teenagers should be avoiding. So where are teenagers getting their alcohol? How much do they drink? And what sort of problems do young people experience in connection to alcohol?

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