It is important to talk with youth about what they are doing and seeing online. Most of the time, they are using technology safely and responsibly, but sometimes they run into trouble. As a parent, you want to establish an open line of communication so that they are comfortable turning to you in times of crisis, whether perceived or actual, and whether online or off.
Below we list several questions that you can use to get the proverbial ball rolling. Be strategic in how you approach your children with these queries: don’t badger them with questions first thing in the morning or when they are stressed out about something at school. Find a time when they are open to your interest in these topics. Maybe it is during a longer car ride to an activity that they are really looking forward to. Or bring them up while you are eating ice cream on a hot summer afternoon. If you catch them at the right time, they will prove to be a treasure trove of information that can help you better understand what they are doing online.
GENERAL TECH USE
What are two apps and two games that you absolutely love right now? What about your friends?
Why do you like them so much? How do they make your life better?
What are the most popular platforms used by kids older than you? Younger?
What kind of videos are you watching on YouTube? Do you have your own channel? How often are you posting and what kind of reception are you getting from those who see your videos?
Around many followers and/or friends do you have on your favorite app(s)? Do you feel pressure to get more and more? Are there certain things you do to try to get more followers?
What kind of people are you connecting with on Snap? Instagram? TikTok? YouTube? Twitch? Discord? Are you connecting with people that you know? Or are you meeting people around the world?
Do you get a lot of follower or friend requests from strangers? Do you accept all of them? How do you make decisions about who to accept and who to ignore/reject?
Have you ever received a text or DM or chat message from someone that made you upset? Creeped out? Worried? Super awkward? How did you respond?
Do you know how to use the privacy settings on every platform you use?
Do you have them set so that only those you accept as followers or friends can see what you share?
What kind of personal information are you sharing online? Have you ever posted your full name? Age? School? Phone number? Current location?
Have you ever been tagged in a post, photo, or video in a way that made you upset?
Do you know how to edit your privacy settings so that if someone wants to tag you, you have to approve it? Do you know how to untag yourself?
Do your friends vent on social media? Do you? What does that look like?
Have you ever blocked someone? Have you ever reported someone? Can you tell me a bit about what they were doing? Did it help?
Does anyone else know your password or passcode for any site or social media app? What about for your laptop, or cell phone?
How else do you keep yourself safe online?
How do you feel about your level of FOMO (fear of missing out) right now? Do you feel like you can control it based on how much you use social media?
Do you ever feel like you’re addicted to social media? Has that “addiction” ever messed with your emotions or brought you down or negatively affected other areas of your life?
How can you maintain a healthy balance when it comes to social media use?
Have you ever been cyberbullied? What did it look like?
Have you ever been mean, in any way, to someone online, saying or doing something that you probably shouldn’t have done?
Have rumors started about you in school, based on something said online?
Did you ever find out who started it? What did you do when you found out?
Do you get concerned that people will read what others have written about you online and then think it’s true about you, even if it’s absolutely not true?
Have you ever dealt with any drama in a group chat? Have you ever been excluded or dogpiled on (where a bunch of other kids ganged up on you)? What did you do in response?
Does cyberbullying happen a lot in general? Would you feel comfortable telling me if you were being cyberbullied?
Do you think your school takes cyberbullying seriously? Did you ever think about talking to a teacher or someone else at school because of some online issue that involved another student? And if you did, did that person at school do something about it? Did it help? It you didn’t, why not?
Does your school have a way to anonymously report bullying/cyberbullying?
Do you feel like your friends would be supportive of you if you told them you were being cyberbullied?
Do you ever get attacked during online games? Have you ever had to leave a game because someone was bothering you?
Have you ever had to delete someone else’s post or comment on your page?
Have you ever blocked somebody because you felt harassed? Did it help?
Have you ever reported someone on a game or an app? Did it help?
Have you ever had anyone do or say anything sexually inappropriate to you online? How did you deal with it?
Has anyone ever asked any of your friends for an inappropriate photo or video? Has anyone ever asked you? How do they/you respond in that very moment?
Do you know about the legal consequences that can result?
How might sexting affect your reputation? Any other unintended outcomes?
Is there a way to participate in sexting while still making sure that pictures or video sent in trust are never shared outside that relationship?
Has any adult at school ever talked with you about sexting?
What might participation in sexting say about your level of maturity, and your readiness to be in a healthy, mature romantic relationship?
Have you heard stories of other kids from your school (even those who may have graduated) or your community who have dealt with major fallout from sexting?
DIGITAL DATING ABUSE
What are your friends’ dating relationships like? Yours?
What makes a relationship healthy? What does that look like in action?
What are some behaviors that would be okay in a dating relationship, and what are some that you’d have a problem with?
What type of behavior in a romantic relationship would you label as “abusive”?
Have you seen any kind of abusive behavior in a dating couple?
Why do you think one person would abuse or mistreat someone they like?
Why might a person stay in an abusive relationship?
What can you do if you have a friend who is threatened, or a friend who is abusive?
What kind of cultural messages are circulating among influencers or celebrity culture about romantic relationships? Which messages are problematic?
Do you know where to go if you or a friend needs help? (loveisrespect.org, thehotline.org, crisistextline.org, 1.800.799.7233)
Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J.W. (2023). Tech Use/Abuse Prevention: Questions Parents Should Ask Their Children. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved [insert date], from https://cyberbullying.org/Questions-Parents-Should-Ask.pdf