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Teen Relationships: Online vs. IRL

Is your teen interacting responsibly with others online? Here's how you find out

Jo Langford

Published on: January 19, 2015

Nowadays, a lot of communication occurs via technology — but relationships that occur only between screens are not actual relationships. Below are some helpful tips for making sure your teen's online and in-person relationships are healthy.

What not to do:

  1. Don't ignore it.
  2. Don't not participate. It’s important to realize that it's okay to interact online with your child.
  3. Don't allow them to figure out the intricacies and social norms of texting and social networking on their own — we don’t do that in the real world, do we?
  4. Don’t fall into the trap of only worrying about others being inappropriate or rude to your child. Even the best of kids can be mean to others by what they say (or don’t say). Passive behavior can be just as distressing to some people as aggressive behavior.
  5. Don't let them friend and follow strangers — encourage your teen to create a litmus test around who they interact with online. Suggest that they only friend or follow those who they have met in real-life.

What you can do:

  1. Give them guidelines around how and with whom they interact online. As parents we need to remember that our kids must develop manners in their online lives just like they do in their “real” lives.
  2. Friend and follow them. If they are on Instagram, be on Instagram. If they do The Twitter thing, do the The Twitter thing!
  3. Be mindful of “Like Culture" — make sure your child has other ways to boost their self-esteem than how many likes or followers they have.
  4. Discuss how they handle bullying and witness issues — where are their lines? When they want to stand up for someone online, block or report, how do they plan to do so?
  5. Stay up to date and be aware of what is happening online — staying informed of your teen's online activity can help you keep tabs on their interactions.

Make sure your teen balances screen relationships with actual, real-time human contact. And emphasize that they should not say or do anything with a screen that they would not say or do if the person was standing in the room in front of them. If you have more questions, you can use The SEX-EDcyclopedia to help you in those places where parenting your kids looks way different from the ways your were parented.

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