BE CURIOUS AND INTERESTED
It’s all OK as long as your child is at home, isn’t it? Well no, not necessarily, because young people spend a substantial percentage of their time online.
Many parents are happy because it makes it easier for their children to socialise with friends and to explore new interests, but they’re also concerned about who their children are talking to and how accessible everything has become. Which is why, as with everything else when it comes to living with a teenager, it’s important to engage and show interest in your child’s online life.
GET TO KNOW THEIR ONLINE WORLD
Three out of every four high school students say that their parents don’t know everything about what they do online. And this can mean they avoid turning to adults if they run into problems. Try to get involved and talk about what your teenager does online, just as you ask how their day went at school.
You can also check out the places where a lot of young people hang out and familiarise yourself with how these platforms work. By all means ask your child for help – it shows that you’re interested and that you’re there for them if something goes 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 what is – and isn’t – OK.
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
HELP YOUR TEENAGERS LOOK AFTER THEMSELVES
Virtually all millennials use social media on a daily basis. Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok are the most popular apps amongst both high school and upper secondary school students in Sweden – Facebook, less so. Many young people also play games or watch other people playing – boys commonly do this on a daily basis.
Talk to your child about how important it is to protect their integrity and not allow themselves to be hurt – or to hurt anyone else. And about how 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 platforms cooperate with one another. Which means that you can share 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 difficult to remove it. Even if a picture is deleted, you don’t know whether someone else has used it or shared it.
That’s why it’s so important to be aware what publishing pictures and other things actually means. It’s a good idea to discuss with your teenager what is – and is not – appropriate when it comes to sharing content on social media
SET THE RULES
Parents more often than children believe that rules have been set about the child’s online behaviour. A tip is to familiarise yourself with different sites and social media, and what you can do if your child runs into trouble.
A lot of social media sites require personal information, so it’s a good idea to talk about the sort of information they should and shouldn’t share.
You could, for example, decide on which details your teenager is not allowed to provide without checking with you first. Such as their full name, address, phone number or school.
CYBERBULLYING AND TROLLING
The number of young people between the ages of 12 and 19 who have been the victims of cyberbullying, or experienced someone writing something negative about them, has almost doubled between 2021 and 2022, from 9% to 17%. Girls and boys are equally affected. And only half of all parents know that this has happened to their child.
IF YOUR TEENAGER GETS IN TROUBLE
Many young people seek affirmation by posting pictures and texts about themselves online. This makes them vulnerable and incautious, which can be exploited by others. Children and young people can become the target of unpleasant comments and harassment from their peers, or be groomed by adults who initiate contact with young people in order to commit sexual abuse or assault. It can happen on websites, in social media or in games with chat forums.
Being exposed to harassment and unwanted attempts to make contact online is more common amongst girls – twice as many girls than boys have experienced someone sharing pictures of them online that they’d rather keep private – but boys can be victims of this too.
If you find out that your child has been exposed to or the victim of something online, try to stay calm, even though you’re actually very angry and upset. Teenagers are often filled with regret when something has happened and they realise the consequences. Listen to your child and make it clear that you’re there for them and that it’s not too late to ask for help – even if something has already happened. Try not to judge or guilt-trip them.
If what has happened constitutes harassment, or is illegal, you need to report it. The majority of social media have a means of reporting pictures, video clips, or comments. If what happened involves something illegal, it’s important that you report it to the police.
USING ALCOHOL TO BUILD AN IMAGE
Partying and alcohol are common themes when young people are creating their image on social media. For many people, showing themselves in settings with alcohol signals that they have an outgoing, successful lifestyle. And as a result, teenagers who follow famous people on Snapchat and Instagram, for example, often encounter posts where young people are drinking alcohol.
ALCOHOL-RELATED ADVERTISING AND MESSAGING
The Internet offers massive opportunities for anyone marketing beer, wine, and spirits, and social media has given alcohol-related advertising and messaging new ways to reach out to young people.
Teenagers are often exposed to alcohol advertising, in spite of it being illegal to target people under the age of 25 in this way. The Swedish Consumer Agency is the authority responsible for supervising alcohol advertising, and you can approach them with your questions or to report advertising.
ILLEGAL SALES VIA SOCIAL MEDIA
One worrying trend is the illegal sale of alcohol, often smuggled, via social media. Posting a request on Snapchat, for example, can quickly result in ”help” from someone who knows someone. A study from 2022 shows that around 15 per cent of ninth graders and 2nd year upper secondary school students have bought alcohol through contacts on social media during the past year. It’s more common amongst girls than boys, and varies across the country.
There are also anonymous accounts, e.g. on Instagram, run by dealers who sell spirits and beer to young people. If you come across an account like this, you can report it directly to Instagram. Talk to your child, too. Explain why you don’t want them to buy from these accounts. As it means that one would be supporting criminal activity and exposes those who buy the alcohol to substantial risks.