On social media, who can see your posts can be just as important as what you post. It's important for parents and guardians to help their teens understand how to make choices about their privacy settings and take control over their online experiences.
Over time, a teen's privacy needs and expectations may change, so it's helpful to check in with them on a regular basis, make sure that their privacy settings meet their own standards and that they understand they can update their settings at any time.
Five tips for talking with your teen about their online privacy
It's never easy to get the conversation about online privacy started, but it's important that it takes place. Here are some tips to guide your conversation with your teen.
2. Ask your teen about their expectations of privacy online in relation to you and your family. Anyone with an account on a Meta technology can control settings such as: who sees their content and who is on their friends' or followers' lists. Every family will have different rules, guidelines and perspectives about what information their teens may keep private from their parents and guardians – and each teen's expectations of privacy will also change over time. It can be a challenge to strike the right balance between keeping your teens safe and respecting their privacy. The key to establishing a relationship based on trust is to continually have conversations about what privacy means to them and the boundaries they value (such as what they feel comfortable sharing online and the rules you've set with them).
3. Ask your teen about the privacy settings they have or plan to set on their social media accounts. One of the first things you may want to ask is whether their account is going to be available to everyone or to a select group. For example, accounts on Instagram can be public or private. Understanding that they have control over who sees and interacts with the things they post online will empower them to be themselves on social media – safely. For example, Instagram offers several tools that give your teen control over their privacy and digital footprint. When teens under the age of 16 (or under 18 in certain countries) sign up for Instagram, their accounts are automatically defaulted into private. If they then choose to switch their account to public, they can still remove followers, choose who can comment on their posts and turn off their activity status (so people can't see when they are active on the app) by visiting their app settings.
4. Ask your teen what information they want to keep private, and what they're comfortable sharing with others online. Different people have different comfort levels with sharing things on the Internet. As teens grow up and learn more about themselves and what they value, their definition of online privacy can change quite a lot. It's important to set ground rules about what kind of information they should and shouldn't share publicly (such as their phone number, address, schedule, location and other sensitive information), and how to enable more private experiences. On Instagram, teens can create a Close Friends list and only share their stories with the people on that list – which they can edit at any time. This gives teens the flexibility to share more personal moments with only a smaller group of their choosing.
5. Encourage your teen to do regular Privacy Checkups. Online privacy choices don't stop at registration. As available privacy settings may change over time, as do our choices, talk with your teen about the importance of reviewing and making regular changes to their privacy settings, as needed.
Additional privacy tips for teens
On Instagram, everyone who signs up for an account and is under 16 years old (or under 18 in certain countries) is defaulted into a private account. We want young people to easily make new friends and keep up with their family, but we want to help them deal with unwanted DMs or comments from strangers. So, we think private accounts are the right choice.
Still, we recognise that some young creators might want to have public accounts to build a following, build a community or advocate for issues they care about. So, we make that option available after equipping them with information about what that choice means.
As you and your teen connect and share more online, keep having conversations about what privacy means to you, and how to continue thinking critically before you post.