A parents' guide to managing teenager’s internet use

teenager on laptop
As a parent, you should stay informed about what your teenager is looking at online so that you can discuss with them the benefits and drawbacks of internet use.

What you need to know:

  • Create a social media contract with them
  • Monitor their on social media sites
  • Set up parental control on the devices used to access social media
  • Research and discuss with them the benefits and drawbacks of specific sites
  • Teach your teen about cyberbullying and internet safety

Parents of teenagers have a lot on their plate. The internet has become one more thing to worry about.

There are so many things that can happen online, and it is hard to know how much time your teenager should spend on their phone, computer or iPad.

Ultimately, what you can do is stay informed and know how best to manage your teenager’s internet usage so that they remain safe and productive.

In this article, you will find some tips on how to manage your teen’s internet usage and more specific information on parental controls and social media safety.

  • Create a social media contract with your teenager

The contract should include rules which can help keep your teens and their friends stay safe as well as a list of consequences for breaking them. For example, if your teenager violates the rules, it may be appropriate to withdraw some privileges or effect physical consequences such as extra chores around the house.

Examples of rules are no cursing on social media; following the time limits set for internet usage; no cyberbullying; and only posting appropriate content.

  • Monitor your teenager’s activity on social media 

This includes not only who they are talking to but also what they are watching and listening to. It’s important to monitor their activities so that you can help keep them safe from online bullying, cyber-inappropriate content, etc.

With so much to do as a parent, keeping track of their whereabouts can be challenging. Consider installing monitoring apps on your phone. Some of the most common types of monitoring apps include web content filtering, app blocking, time management, and location tracking. 

  • Set up parental control on devices 

Such apps can help you maintain control in a variety of ways. Some of them enable you to restrict what content can be downloaded or purchased from the Play store or App store based on the maturity level. Others can limit the use of specific apps and enable you to set time limits for usage. Choose what is appropriate for you and your teen, then enforce accordingly.

  • Research and discuss the benefits and drawbacks

Be aware of the positive and negative effects that social media can have on teens. For example, sites like Facebook allow them to stay connected with friends they may not see often but this also come with privacy concerns (someone you don’t know could find out who you are).

Other sites such as Instagram and YouTube can promote creativity in your teen but also provide the opportunity for cyberbullying. There are sites that are not suitable for teens. For example, dating sites and pornographic sites have gained popularity recently.

Discuss these things with your teenager and consider which sites might be best suited to them and what you might want to limit their access too.

  • Teach your teen about cyberbullying and internet safety

It is best for your teen to know how to be safe online. Some of the most basic things they should know are not to give out personal information, know their password for every website (Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, etc and email accounts) and recognise when it’s necessary to share certain types of content with a select audience vs. sharing it publicly on social media.

Social media is known to have contributed to teen depression. This can be attributed to cyberbullying, lack of sleep due to social media addiction, and the difficulty teens have in distinguishing what is real and not. 

Prevention is better than cure

As a parent, it is your responsibility to ensure that you monitor and control the usage of internet for your teenager. You should also stay informed about what they are looking at online so that you can discuss with them the benefits and drawbacks of their internet use.

Have an open conversation with your teen to let them know you are there for them if they need support and guidance in managing their internet usage. This will help reduce the chances of the teen suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts.