Is it Safe for Teens to chat online?

Truth be told, we can’t control who our teens chat with online. In this digital age, they are chatting with their friends, their teachers, other family members and many others online. The question is, is it safe for teens to chat online?

Teens are chatting online through many different platforms. It can be hard to keep up with who and where they are messaging. Teens are messaging through instant messaging like imessage and whatsapp, social media, email, chatrooms such as discord and video chats like zoom and house party. There are so many apps and so many ways to chat now meaning that there are many entry points for the risks of online chatting to catch up with them.

Is it safe for teens to chat online?

The risks of chatting online are many. These are a few to look out for.

Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying can happy anywhere at any time to anyone. You don’t have to be online for a long time to be cyberbullied and the impact of it can be huge. It only takes a few seconds to type something mean and hurtful to someone and it can’t be unheard or unread. Cyberbullying can be quite dangerous due to the fact that it is quite anonymous. For example, your teenage daughter has been chatting to another “teenage” boy for a few weeks. Shortly after, the conversation starts to turn and he begins cyberbullying her. He shares private images of her that she sent him and he is now using them to cause her embarrassment. It turns out that he is a 40-year old man who lives on the other side of the world and is bullying her for his own enjoyment. She had no idea who he really was and no one had any idea that it was happening. Cyberbullying can take on many forms from hurtful messages to sharing private images and information to embarrass someone. It can also be taken to a higher extreme that involves threats of violence.

Online Predators: Online predators are another huge risk of chatting online. Predators are lurking in chat rooms looking for information that they can use in their online or in person attacks. This information could be where they go to school, who they are friends with, when their birthday is etc. They use this information to earn your teens trust. Once they have this information, they will pose a teen or someone in a trusted position such as a teacher or coach to earn their trust. Once they have earned their trust, they persuade them to share nude photos or perform sexually explicit tasks via web cam or video. Some online predators will then encourage a meet up in person where teens can may become sexually abused.

Identity Theft: While you may not think that your child has much to steal, identity theft is a huge issue. For many cybercriminals, they are looking for teens with a blank slate to open up accounts and credit cards on. This can be extremely dangerous and follow your teens for the rest of their lives.

These are just 3 risks of online chats. There are many other risks worth considering as well including inappropriate content on the internet, hate speech and more.

Recommendations for keeping your teens safe while chatting online

  1. Explain to your child that sometimes, people online might not be who they say they are. Explain that they could be trying to trick them or even be someone who wants to harm them. Encourage your child to let you know if someone asks them to switch apps. This way, you can ensure your child is safe and that nothing bad happens. 
  2. Encourage your child to talk to people they know in closed groups.
  3. Help your child set up their accounts and set privacy settings.
  4. Use parental controls.
  5. Keep an open conversation going with your teens so that you know what is going on and so that they know they can come and talk to you.