The Internet is a valuable tool for learning and research. However, its primary use amongst teens is social media.

While there’s nothing wrong with staying up to date on the lives of friends and local events, more often than not, social media can be a harmful and destructive force in a young person’s life. Since it is not safe to assume that teenagers are consistently using social media appropriately, one way to protect your child from damaging their future, engaging with predators or simply posting something they will regret is by using the privacy settings.

Many apps and social media platforms have privacy settings, yet this tool goes unnoticed. These settings are put in place to control who is able to view your profiles, posts and other information that may have been included in registering to use Instagram and/or Facebook.

Since privacy settings are often an afterthought, many are either unaware of their existence or choose to forego putting these digital boundaries in place. However, taking a few moments to do so could greatly increase your child’s safety.

    • To effectively manage your privacy settings, be sure to set them up right after you create a new account.
    • While it may seem obvious to never share your home address or cell phone number, often times this information is required to set up social media accounts. Something as simple as a zip code can reveal enough about your location to put you at risk of identity theft or burglary.
    • Keep any financial information, passwords, addresses and phone numbers off limits from public screens; and check your privacy settings regularly to ensure they are still protecting your information as efficiently as possible.
    • Another mistake is posting your social calendar or vacation plans, which many teens are notorious for doing. This lets predators and criminals know when you will and won’t be home, and where to find you in the meantime. Keeping your exact travel plans off of social media and your photos private can protect you from potential security risks.
    • Posts and private conversations can also be protected with privacy settings, and it’s a good thing, too. Posting something personal you may regret later, or something that may contain too much sensitive information can at least be hidden from the eyes of strangers until it is removed.
    • In deciding what you should apply privacy settings to, simply think about whether it is information you would be comfortable with a complete stranger having access to.
    • With new updates and additions to apps and websites, there may be new settings to put into effect.
    • Delete any apps you don’t use. They may be gathering data and information while you’re not using them, and your safest bet is to get rid of them entirely.

Children and teenagers do not always immediately understand the repercussions of sharing or posting personal information online. Having a discussion with your teenager as early as possible about how to use privacy settings, and what not to put on the Internet, could save them from not getting into the college of their choice, having their credit ruined or even being targeted by predators.

The earlier you have these conversations, and the more privacy settings you put in place, the safer the Internet could be for your child.

Laura Jane Crocker

Photo credit: pixinoo /


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