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How to Protect Your Teen's Online Privacy

11 of 11 in Series: The Essentials of Talking to Teens About Sex

Privacy is one of the biggest hot buttons in a parent-teen relationship. Teenagers are working their ways toward independence, and parents are trying to find out how to balance privacy and safety — especially online. The Internet is full of hidden pitfalls for young adults, and parents must know how to allow their teens privacy from the greater world, as well as respect it at home.

A growing teen is developing an individual identity — apart from parents — which we all do in order to become independent, functioning adults. And establishing privacy is a vital part of that separation process. Young adults become more focused on their peer group, rather than their family, and because they feel that only their peers can identify with their problems, they confide in each other. This process has been going on since the beginning of time, but the Internet has changed all that.

Many young people have an identity on a site such as or Facebook.com where they post all sorts of information about themselves, voluntarily giving up rights of privacy. This poses danger from two types of people.

  • Strangers who prey on young people: People, usually men, called pedophiles want to have sex with children and young adults, and in the process can physically harm them.

  • So-called "friends": As a teen invites a wide circle of friends to peer into his life, he’ll invite some who are not so friendly. Though they may not harm someone physically, they can still be downright cruel and harm each other mentally or emotionally.

Privacy is a very valuable asset. It can protect teens (and adults) in many ways. Privacy gives you the freedom to try new things without embarrassing yourself in front of the whole world. It allows you to make mistakes and then keep them under wraps, minimizing the consequences. Once a mistake is revealed, it can haunt you forever. For example, say you’re stopped by the police for driving while under the influence, but the officer is nice about it and doesn’t arrest you. Reveal that fact on a blog, have some future employer google you and discover the incident, and your entire future could be seriously affected.

Parents should understand that teens want to participate in the activities that their friends are participating in. Blogging can be done safely. But in order to ensure safety while blogging or using online social networks, both parents and teens must remain aware of the potential pitfalls and proceed with caution. Young people often think that they’re immune to danger, but the truth is, they’re not.

Make sure that teenagers think twice when they’re online, and remember these key points:

  • Never reveal information that can help someone find you in the physical world. No matter how nice someone seems online, they could be dangerous.

  • Never write about private issues and feelings unless you wouldn’t mind if it gets broadcast to the entire school.

  • Blogs and social networks are terrific for posting things you want to share with everyone — like accomplishments. But write in a journal — with a pen or pencil! — for things that you want to keep closer to your heart and for your eyes only.

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The Essentials of Talking to Teens About Sex

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