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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 11°C

Teens and social media: What parents need to know

Help keep your teen safe online as they head back to school.

SOCIAL MEDIA PLAYS a big role in teen life with lots of benefits including connecting with friends, meeting and joining new communities and being a new creative outlet for many. With many teens spending so much time online now, it’s only natural to be concerned about their online activity, especially when it comes to social media.

You may wonder why teens spend so much time on social media, or worry about cyberbullying or that your child may be contacted by strangers behind a screen. Overall, you’re just concerned about their well-being and whether social media is the best thing for them to be spending a lot of time on.

With your child heading back to school, now is the perfect time to check in about social media. Being available to listen to them as they navigate the ups and downs of social media is key to helping them make the most of it.

Together with Jane McGarrigle, Project Officer at Webwise, we’ve put together a few top tips for keeping your teen safe online. Webwise offers a wide range of free resources to help families and schools to support children and teens online.

Understanding the features of social networks

There are lots of social media platforms available to teens in Ireland, with Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram and YouTube among the most popular. While new apps come along all the time, many of the features remain the same for each platform for example; most social networks allow for messaging, sharing photos/videos, live streaming and following/connecting with others. Understanding these features and helping establish rules around these is a good starting place for parents.

It can be hard to keep up to date with the latest apps our teens are on and parents feel like their kids know more than they do,” Jane said. “You can find out about the most popular platforms Irish teens are using on the Webwise Parents Hub. Everything from BeReal to TikTok is explained in plain english without the jargon.” 

IMG-0125 Social media are a big part of your teen's life.

Get them talking

Having regular and open conversations with your kids about their lives online is vital to ensuring that they have a safe and positive experience. A good way to get them to open up is to ask what they like about the social media they use. Staying in touch with friends, learning new things, or keeping up with their favourite celebrities are some of the reasons why your teen might like using social media.  

When approaching the conversation, there’s a few things to keep in mind. For starters, keep an open mind, avoid criticism or judgement. What teens do on social media is important to them and we shouldn’t dismiss it as something novel. Don’t overreact or scaremonger, keep it relevant and based on your child’s interests and experiences. Help connect with your teen by sharing your own stories or getting them to show you how different features work on platforms.

Having an open dialogue means if something goes wrong then your child is more likely to speak to you about it. Remind them if something upsets them online, they can come to you or another trusted adult. 

Privacy controls

The next step you can take is to ensure your teen knows about privacy settings on each site. You may not be an expert on social media, but there are great resources on Webwise that outline everything you need to know from updating privacy settings to reporting and blocking features.

Explain to your teen the importance of letting only their friends see what they post and keeping information about themselves in a small circle. It’s important to remind them that no matter what their privacy controls are, anything they post online can be copied and shared to a wider audience. Advise them to be mindful that things they post may have a longer life online than they anticipate.

Help your teen to develop good online habits – setting social media accounts to private and reviewing their followers,” Jane said. 


Establishing a good, open relationship around social media can pay off in the long run. Should your child be the victim of cyberbullying, they’ll want you to be able to understand and offer them advice on how to solve the issue. 

Banning your child from using social media as a result of a bad experience might only serve to drive them away from you. You know your child better than anyone else. If your child is a victim of online bullying, listen supportively to what they have to say, and avoid overreacting or banning technology.

Talklistenlearn Have open discussions with your teen.

You can report abuse on social media sites, as well as block those engaging in bullying. Prevention is always better than cure. We can encourage more positive connections – getting permission before posting pictures for example. Talk about being a good friend online, supporting others who may be targeted and also ensuring your teen knows what to do if something goes wrong. They can talk to you and report it to the platform. 

The issue of online bullying is constantly evolving and can be difficult to identify and combat for parents, but you can read an in-depth breakdown of cyberbullying and ways to prevent it on Webwise.

Getting the balance right  

Worrying about the impact social media can have on their teen is a common issue for parents. It can have a big influence on your child’s life, from questioning their body image to being exposed to harmful content or misinformation. It is important that we have a critical lens when using social media, as it’s not always a reflection of the real world and many teens can feel pressure to look a certain way. 

Have a chat about who they are following and help them curate a healthy newsfeed, by following appropriate accounts and things that interest or benefit them,” Jane said. 

1 Advise your child to spend some time off social media too.

Encourage them to form strong in-real-life connections outside of social media and establish rules at home to encourage tech-free times, particularly at night time.  


Help your teen stay safe online as they start the new school year. Remember that, as Jane said, “The most important thing you can do to support your teen online is by having regular discussions.” 

We understand that some of these chats are not easy to have particularly around porn or sexting and parents don’t know how to start the conversation. A great starting point is the Webwise Parents Hub - you’ll find talking points for all those hard to have conversations,” Jane added. 

This campaign is brought to you by the Department of Education.

About Webwise

Webwise is the Irish Internet Safety Awareness Centre. Webwise is co-funded by the Department of Education and co-financed by the European Commission. promotes safer, better Internet use through awareness raising and education initiatives targeting teachers, children, young people and parents.

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