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Staying Involved in your Teens Social Media
March  2023 

Social media and technology has changed the way we live our lives and can serve as a powerful tool to enhance education, communication and learning.

Unfortunately, among all the positive experiences with social media, there has also been a rise in potentially unsafe behaviours. It is common for parents to struggle with how to stay involved in their teen‘s online activity. However, parents are the most often cited source of advice and the biggest influence on teens' understanding of appropriate and inappropriate digital behavior.
This Snapshot provides information about some of the common risks of using social media and suggestions to help parents talk with with teens about using social media wisely.

Common Risks of Using Social Media

Cyberbullying is using social media to hurt, humiliate or threaten others. It can include:
Posting or sharing false information or images about someone that will cause harm to them or their reputation without their permission.

Repeatedly sending someone mean, insulting or threatening messages.

Pretending to be someone else online by using their personal information without permission.

Excluding or banning someone from online games, chat rooms, social media pages, etc.

Sending viruses or malicious code to damage someone else's device.
As the law currently stands, there is no specific or stand-alone crime of cyberbullying. However, when  bullying behaviour reaches the level of criminal conduct, the current Criminal Code of Canada contains several offences that capture this criminal behaviour. 

Sextortion is when online predators convince a person to take sexual photos or record sexual acts. They threaten to post the photos or videos online unless the person pays money or provides more inappropriate material. This is extortion and is a Criminal Code offence. In many incidents, youth are participating in this activity believing they are engaging with another young person. 
Bill C13 prohibits the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. It also gives the courts and law enforcement more powers to respond to criminal online behaviour, such as ordering the removal of intimate images and accessing evidence from the Internet and other technologies.  

The law defines an “intimate image” as one that shows a person exposing their breasts, genitals or anal region, or depicts them engaged in explicit sexual activity (meaning acts involving nudity or intimate sexual activity, but not including activities like touching or kissing).
If you take or share a naked or “sexually explicit” image of yourself or someone else, you could be charged with a Criminal Code offence such as the non-consensual distribution of an intimate image or child pornography.

In Canada, it‘s a criminal offence “to share intimate images without the consent of the person in the image.” If this has happened  you may want to talk to a lawyer, report it to CyberTip or contact the police. The police have the power to force someone to take down and stop spreading the image. 

Tips for responding to sextortion or non-consensual photos:
  1. You can start by asking the person who shared it to take it down or stop sharing it. Kids report that this works more often than not!
  2. Ask the service or platform where it was shared to take it down. If you’re under 18, they may be required by law to take it down, and most also have a policy of taking down any photos that were shared without the subject’s permission.
  3. Do a reverse image search with a service like  TinEye or Google to see if the photo has been posted anywhere else. If it has, repeat step 2.
Stay Involved

Your ongoing involvement in your teens social media activity is very important. Below are some strategies you can use to stay involved and increase their safety. Adolescents earn the right to more privacy by demonstrating good digital literacy and maturity over time.
Parents are encouraged to have frequent proactive discussions with their teen around their use of the internet and social media applications. This should be done in a non-judgmental and supportive manner and not intended to punish behaviour. Research shows that teens who discuss social networking websites with their parents behave safer online. You want your child to be able to actively come to you with any trouble they are having online.
Set up agreements and guidelines for how you expect your child to use the device that you gave to them. You wouldn't hand your teen the keys to your car without first teaching them to drive... right? Giving students unsupervised access to the internet, without establishing rules and setting boundaries could be just as dangerous. One great way to trigger discussions about internet safety is to create a family media agreement. A family agreement can help create healthy internet habits. Remember to revisit and revise the agreement, as needed, throughout the year. Common Sense Media Family Agreement

Discuss the importance of not responding to harassing, harmful or unsolicited calls or messages sent to them and to save these types of messages. Ensure your teen knows how to block calls and messages from unwanted users and reinforce the importance of talking to a safe adult if in receipt of these types of messages.
Discuss the importance of seeking help. Identify uncomfortable or potentially unsafe situations that would be important to tell you, or another safe adult, about. Acknowledge that while this may be a difficult step to take, their safety is your number one priority and you are there to help them. Discuss what might happen if they don‘t seek help and emphasize that it is never too late to come to you for help, even if they have made a mistake.
Watch for signs. Some signs may indicate the need for increased involvement and communication with your teen. They may seem more withdrawn, sad, anxious, defensive, angry or secretive. They may have lost interest in activities that they normally enjoyed. They may complain of stomach aches or headaches and problems with sleeping such as difficulty falling or staying asleep 

It is typical for teens to break boundaries, especially if they think adults aren‘t aware. Sometimes all it takes to get them back on the right track is knowing an adult is monitoring them more closely. Calmly communicate your concerns and be emotionally available for your teen. They will likely resist your involvement – do not back down. It is their job to test limits and your job to set them.
Resources and Sources

Parents' Ultimate Guides

Struggling to keep up with the apps, games, and websites your kids are using? Common Sense's Parents' Ultimate Guides can help keep you up to date and answer your questions about all the latest platforms and trends. 

Click on images to read the Guides. 
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Every month FamilySmart hosts free  events for families. The March topic is:
 A Conversation for Families About Digital Wellbeing & Mental Health

As parents It's not easy to know how much time on technology is too much and how to set boundaries that don't create conflict.

Join us for a conversation with a digital wellbeing expert to learn some practical solutions to our everyday concerns and challenges around our kids' use of screens and their mental health.
Click here for dates, times and to register
Free of Charge 
Guide to ChatGPT for Parents and Caregivers Find out how the artificial intelligence (AI) tool works and how to talk with kids about it.
Parental Controls
Common Sense Media
Cybertip Canada's National Tip Line for Reporting Online Sexual Exploitation of Children 
Net Smartz - Age Appropriate Resources To Teach Children To Be Safe On And Offline
Need Help Now - Removal of posts and images online
Get Cyber Safe
Safer Schools Together
ERASE Bullying
Protect Kids Online
Smart Social

In cased you missed it... last month's Snapshot was on resolving conflict!

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The content provided through the Snapshots is for information purposes only. The Snapshots include information that is general in nature and cannot address the many individual child rearing challenges parents and caregivers may experience. Therefore it is the readers‘ responsibility to determine the suitability of the information for their specific needs.

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