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The recent passing of celebrities and public figures have placed social media use and cyberbullying under the spotlight. A United States study found that teens who spend more time on electronic devices and social media are more likely to be at risk of depression and suicide.

In Singapore, suicide remains the leading cause of death among those aged 10 to 29 in 2018. Then National Development Minister, Mr Lawrence Wong pointed out: “Social media plays a part in shaping (their) sense of self-worth… it amplifies negative emotions of insecurity and inferiority”.

Given the pervasive use of social media like Instagram, Youtube and Tiktok in the daily life of our youths, how can we educate our kids on using their personal platforms in a kind and responsible manner?

Here’re a few tips you can share with your tween or teen at home:

1. Build a positive digital reputation

What they do online stays online. Teens need to think about what they want their social media use to say about them. The way they portray themselves online decides their digital reputation. Poor decisions like inappropriate comments or sharing of personal information can weigh on them for a long time. Share with them the old adage: Think before you act – or post! If in doubt, don’t.

2. Words have power

Malicious comments and online abuse have been implicated in many Korean celebrities’ suicides. Likewise, teens are at a vulnerable age where such hate speech might have a disproportionate effect on their fledgling egos. Parents can share strategies on how to respond to mean or hurtful words online; and teach the kids to show support and empathy for others.

3. The golden rule

Unlike face-to-face interaction, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there is a person behind each screen. Here’s an easy rule-of-thumb for your teen to follow: Do not say to others online what they would not say to them in person. If it’s hurtful, defamatory or inappropriate in the physical world, it is online too.

4. Don’t rely on privacy settings

Privacy settings are not a failsafe. Let your teen know that anyone who can see their content online can download it, copy or take a screenshot and then share it publicly. As with the golden rule, they should not share with others online what they would not share with their friends in real life.

5. Don’t be afraid to seek help

Sometimes despite their best efforts, your teen may find him or herself in difficult situations. Look out for warning signs such as negative talk, changes in mood or emotional outbursts. Express your concern and talk to your child in a caring and non-judgmental way. Where necessary, approach professional counsellors for help.

Tags: Teenage Issues /Health Matters /Child Development /Parent-Child Relationships