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Digital safety no-no’s for tweens and teens

Digital safety no-no’s for tweens and teens

Digital safety no-no’s for tweens and teens


With Safer Internet Day celebrated on the 9th February, let’s make this Safer Internet month. Here are some digital safety no-no’s to make your children aware of. They all down to choices.  Your children are ultimately going to be responsible for each and every choice, each and every connection/friend that they make online or via instant messaging apps. Here is a list of actions they should avoid in order to keep safe in the digital world:

  • Don’t create porn (videos or photographs). If you are under 18, it is illegal and you can get a criminal record.
  • Don’t send porn to anyone. If you are under 18, it is illegal and you can get a criminal record.
  • Don’t cut and paste directly from other people’s work or websites without putting it into your own words – and even then you should acknowledge the source. Plagiarism is unethical and could cost you your matric or tertiary qualification.
  • Don’t open links in emails and posts from people you don’t know. You could open yourself up to being hacked, blackmailed or scammed.
  • Don’t make friends with strangers – not everyone has good intentions for you.
  • Don’t give out too much personal information on your profiles, it makes it easier to find you in the real world, putting you at physical risk.
  • Don’t diss other people. Words can harm so be careful what you say
  • Don’t overshare your thoughts and feelings online. If you are very upset or angry, rather stay offline and find a real shoulder to cry on.
  • Don’t post mean comments about others. Never text anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face.
  • Don’t post embarrassing pictures of others. Only post things that put them in a good light.
  • Don’t spread rumours or lies about others.
  • Don’t play tricks on people online.
  • Don’t buy into peer pressure and following the crowd. Be your own
  • Don’t cop out and hide behind a screen – engage with real life.
  • Don’t share your passwords with anyone else – it can lead to phone-jacking.
  • Don’t fall asleep with your phone under your pillow while listening to Protect your brain from radiation and sleep with your phone far away from your head.

Any and all of the above can make interesting conversation pieces with your children. Conversation forms the basis for context and this is necessary if rules or guidelines are to make any sense to children at all.  Rules without context are just information and will most probably be ignored.


Ages 10 – 18 years (or any child that has an internet-linked device)

  • Parents, use all or any of the above for dinner conversation with your device-toting children.
  • Here is a quick family digital safety check to do with each child – much like locking the door to your house and setting your alarm before going to bed at night:
    • Make sure they have passwords installed on their devices. If not, help them create one and discuss why it is important.
    • If they have shared their password with someone else, even if it is their BFF, insist that they create a new one, immediately.
    • Check if their location settings are switched on and get them to switch them off after having a discussion with them.
    • Look at how much personal information they are sharing on their social media profiles. Physical addresses and even school names should go.
    • Encourage them to delete any porn off their phones. If they are caught with it under the age of 18 and if it can be proven that they shared it with anyone, they can acquire a criminal record.
    • Check the profile pictures your teens are using on social media and instant messaging services such as Snapchat and Whatsapp. There are some risqué ones around (close ups of private parts or scantily clad bodies are good examples) and you would be surprised at the fact that many nice kids use them. If the pictures don’t portray your child and your family in a positive light, get them to change their profile picture. This is their advertisement to the world, like a giant billboard, so to speak.
  • Have a family Google session. Google every family member by name and see if anything comes up.  If it does, make sure it is good stuff.  If there is negative stuff, discuss reputational risk and work at getting it removed.

Creative parenting expert, inspirational speaker and co-author of Tech-Savvy Parenting (Bookstorm, 2014), Future-proof Your Child (Penguin, 2008), and Easy Answers to Awkward Questions (Metz Press, 2009)

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