How can I help my child feel free to be who they are online while staying safe?

For young people, self-expression online is part of everyday life but at times, there may be pressure to live up to certain expectations that can impact how they present themselves online. Our experts provide advice on how young people can tackle this pressure and feel free to be who they want to be.

Alan Mackenzie

Online Safety Specialist
Expert Website

How can parents be good role models when it comes to managing young people’s online identity?

Personality and identity are both vital aspects of who we are, or who we portray to be. At different times and under different circumstances separate parts of our personality will shine through, but the identity we choose to share is what gives others their first impression about us, whether that is an avatar, a username or a bio in a social media profile. Consider a young person who uses an Instagram account between friends and family, and a different account to celebrate and share their amazing artwork. The identity we choose to share will likely be very different; family and friends will be more personal, perhaps a private account, whereas the artwork account doesn’t need any personally identifiable information at all unless it’s being used by an older student as part of an extended CV.

Sit with your child and go through their accounts with them. What identity are they choosing to share and is it appropriate for that particular account? What does their username (or gamer tag) say about them?

Dr Tamasine Preece

Curriculum Lead for Health and Wellbeing; Freelance consultant and researcher
Expert Website

How can I make sure that my teens’ use of social media impacts their online identity positively?

Creating an identity is a vital part of adolescence and most adults probably have very embarrassing memories of their own teenage attempts. The fact that young people now have the ability to carry out behaviours away from the informal supervision of parents and carers makes such a normal and healthy life-stage far more complex.

Some parents or carers may decide that they are going to directly monitor profiles and interactions, others may allow their child the ability to go online unsupervised but with clear guidance around the safety implications related to the sharing of personal information and the need for authenticity and integrity during interactions.

Young people can learn so much from the exchanging of ideas with others but it’s important to encourage them to consider the impact of their words as some comments can have far-reaching and life-changing consequences.

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