Parenting, Teenagers

7 Social Media Safety Guidelines for Teenagers

A New York Times Article had me thinking. The author says that teens and tweens have their own rules about what to post (and not post) on social media. There is a ‘bikini rule’ that tells kids

“You can post a bikini or a bathing suit picture only if you are with your siblings or family in the picture”.

Defines how ‘sexy’ is acceptable.

“Its okay to post from a fun event, but not too many”.

Be subtle.

“Not okay to share vacation pictures of a fancy hotel”.

So, don’t brag.

While these rules make sense, are they sufficient to keep you safe online? The world of social media is a deep, dark, dangerous dungeon.

There are unwanted elements lurking in the shadows. Do teenagers consider these dangers while formulating their rules?

How about your future? Each photo you post, each status you update, or a friend’s post you like you are leaving clues to help people find out who you are (or worse still form a biased opinion about you). I hope you are cognizant that your future colleges and employees WILL be going through all your social media to look for any clues that your profile is not suitable.

You may delete an offensive post or photo later, but not before someone has already downloaded it.

So, how about we have some guidelines in place to help you navigate this world.

Did you just let out a groan?

Even if you (low-key) object right now, I am certain that soon you will realize that these are meant for your good and safety.

The Social Media Safety Guidelines

Here are 7 guidelines for you. Keep these in mind each time you are on any social media platform. It could be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Vine, Linked In, Vero or any others that may come up in the future.

Friend Requests / Followers

RULE: Do NOT accept friend requests from people unless you know they exist IRL. (in real life, for the uninitiated). 

In your craze for likes, you may be tempted to accept friend requests from complete strangers.

Be safe. Accept Facebook friend requests, Instagram followers, Twitter followers only from people who you know exist IRL.

Direct message and contact people you actually know.

Why this is important

There is the obvious danger of having a sexual predator lurking on your profile.

Then there are spam bots. These bots send out spam requests. If you happen to accept such a request, the bot will spam all the people on your list of friends with requests and so on so forth.

Third, people create a fake profile for cyber bullying.

Privacy Settings

RULE: Keep privacy settings ON (and at their maximum).

Take a moment to think who should see each post of yours. Restrict your friends from further sharing it.

If in doubt about who to share it with, the conservative answer is the right one.

Go to Facebook Privacy Settings to see how you can choose who sees each time you post or use lists to share with a specific group of people and much more.

Similarly, privacy settings can be set for Twitter and Instagram.

Why this is important

The default setting of these social media networks is public (or fairly public). This means you have no control over who can access your information. Stalkers, identity thieves, and cyber bullies have access to information they require to cause you harm.

To upload and post or not

RULE: Upload and post responsibly. No sensitive information, ever.

Think about the information you are giving and to whom before you post it.

Think before you post. Never give away sensitive information like (even if you are asked to do so)

  • Home address
  • A picture in front of your home or school
  • Information about your school
  • Your schedules, extra curricular classes
  • Phones numbers
  • Financial Information (credit card numbers etc or post pictures which might have these.)

Why this is important

This information is a goldmine for anyone wanting to cause you harm or bully you. It does not matter when or where you post this information. These experts can cull out bits of information that may have been posted years ago and use it against you.

Embarrassing or mean photos of others or messages

RULE: Never post embarrassing photos of others or mean messages.

You are better than that.

This is exactly what Justin Foley did to Hannah Baker in 13 Reasons Why. How did Hannah Baker feel about it?

Why this is important

Embarrassing photos and mean messages can lead to a lot of harm, both to you and to the victim.

They can be all over the internet for all the wrong reasons, made into memes or even end up in the hands of your future employers.


RULE: Only put out stuff that you do not feel ashamed off in front of your parents.

You may feel curious, excited and/or pressurized to indulge in it.

You may feel pressured. But remember the consequences of a photo leaking are far more dangerous than being called ‘lame’.

Even if you are just a recipient, delete the offensive message and do not join in.

Why this is important

Remember, once you send out a photo or text, you can never control it again.

With social networks and apps, publishing and sharing stuff has become quick and easy. Plus, once you send it out, you do not know who receives and republishes it.

What it means is that what you send out today will get collected and put on sites without your knowledge or consent. It will live there forever. And come back to haunt you years later.

Location Services

RULE: Turn off your location services.

On your smartphones and digital cameras. They use geo-tagging for each picture i.e. the exact latitude and longitude of where the photo was taken is stored in the metadata of that picture.

Check the location settings for each app on your phone. Especially for your phone camera. so that your images are not tagged with your location.

Don’t manually add the location while you are posting on social media.

Wait until you are safely home to post pictures of your holiday away with family.

Don’t regularly check-in to a place you routinely go to.

Why this is important

It tells people where you are.

It tells people where you are not – like if you and your family are away from home on a vacation.

It reveals information about people you are with.

Time Spent on Social Media

RULE: Time yourself.

Monitor how much time you spend online. Don’t become an addict or a slave.

Why this is important

A study by the Brain Institute at the University of Pittsburgh found that young adults who spent more time on multiple social media platforms have a greater risk of mental health problems including anxiety and depression.

You don’t want it to interfere with your social life, studies or play.

I realize and understand that social media is an integral part of your life. You use it to communicate and stay in touch with your friends, family and even your role models.If you understand and follow these guidelines you are good, or as good as can be expected. It is social media, after all. A deep, dark, dangerous dungeon. 



Photo by Steinar Engeland on Unsplash

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8 thoughts on “7 Social Media Safety Guidelines for Teenagers”

    1. Wow, two teenagers (out of five kids) and a blog! You are one inspirational woman. I am blown.
      Do give these a tips a try and let me know what you think.


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