Top Ten Questions To Ask Your Teen About Their Social Media Use

Top Ten Questions To Ask Your Teen About Their Social Media Use

If you are like most parents of teenagers, you are worried about what your teens are doing online, and what they are doing on social media. It’s difficult to know what to ask your teens to keep them and their information safe.

Teens are often more sophisticated than their parents when it comes to how to use social media applications, yet many teens lack the judgment and experience about how to use these applications wisely and safely.

There are many issues with social media use. Here are four safety and security rules that cover many common situations. You can share these with your teen:

  1. Keep all of your accounts and your personal data secure.
  2. Don’t share any personal information that can jeopardize your physical or mental security or lead to identity theft.
  3. If anyone or any ad/posts/images/tweets/etc. make you uncomfortable, or is a form of bullying, stalking, or harassment in any way, stop all contact and report the person, post or situation.
  4. Always “be aware of what you share” online – you never know who will see it or when they’ll see it, or how it will be interpreted.

Below are some basic questions you can ask your teen that support the above rules. While your teen may roll their eyes at some of these questions and say “I know that, Mom/Dad”, it’s still good to go over these topics as reminders.

This list does not cover all online issues that teens face, but it’s a way to start a dialog.


  1. Do you really know all of your friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter or Instagram? Have you ever accepted a friend request from someone you aren’t sure that you know?

    Think about this for a second – unless a person is famous, why would anyone want to friend or follow someone that they don’t know?

    Let’s say that someone you don’t know wants to friend or follow you. If you’re lucky, they might just want to rack up a very large number of friends - just so that they can say they have 1000 or more friends. If you’re unlucky, they are stealing your information or that of your friends or are stalking you.

    If you answered yes to either of these questions, then “unfriend” those people.

    On Facebook, “friends of friends” often have access to your information – so if you don’t know the “friends” you also do not know the “friends of friends”! Do you really want to share your location, personal information, posts, photos, with people that you don’t know?

    This warning applies to the “People You Might Know” recommendations that Facebook offers you. If you know these people, then consider the recommendation. But if you don’t know them, don’t “friend” them just because Facebook recommends that you do.

  2. Have you ever gotten a friend request from someone who is already your friend? And did you accept the second friend request anyway, but wondered what was going on?

    If this has happened to you and you’ve accepted the second friend request, then check your friend’s list. If you see the same friend listed twice, your friend has been hacked. The “newest” friend entry is an imposter. This is an instance of identity theft. You need to unfriend the imposter ASAP and let your real friend know.

    There have been instances when an imposter has created a fake Facebook page for someone who does not have a Facebook page. Therefore the friend request from this account may seem genuine, but it’s not. Therefore, if a page or the request does not seem authentic, be wary. If the page is clearly a fake, do not accept the request and consider reporting it to Facebook.

Information and Photos

  1. Do you know which bits of your personal information are publicly available (to people that you have not specifically “friended”)? Have you ever checked out your page to see what it looks like to a stranger? Do you periodically check your privacy settings?

    There are two issues here. The first is that you need to be aware of your privacy settings and manage them carefully. The second is that you need to periodically check your settings because social media applications have been known to change privacy settings when their privacy policy updates, or there is a software update, or there is a bug. Remember, if the application is free, then your personal data is what is valuable to the social media company Share the minimum.

    Here are a few points to consider:

    1. Is your account publicly available? Can anyone see your personal information? Is it just friends? Or friends of friends? Or the public?
    2. Are your photos on Instagram available to everyone? Or to just approved followers?
    3. Is your year of birth available to anyone? Is your address, school name, city or cell phone number publicly available? (They shouldn’t be!)
    4. Any of these personal variables could be combined to create your online profile, which could then lead to identity theft and/or being approached by a predator.
  2. Do you have any photos on Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat that you do not want your parents, your college’s admissions officer, a future employer, or a future significant other to see?

    This is a critical issue that is often ignored by teens, but it bears discussing again and again. Any photo that is posted will sooner or later be seen by someone that you did not expect to see it or do not want to see it!

    Once a photo is posted, shared or sent to anyone, it’s in the cloud. That means it’s potentially available to anyone and to everyone forever. You don’t really know what happens to a photo once the photo is shared. Nor do you have any control over what happens to it.

    Try doing a Google image search on your teen’s name and see what shows up. Or do a search on for Instagram photos of your teen.

  3. Do you take quizzes and surveys while on Facebook?

    These fun quizzes maybe collecting data about you, your friends and your friends of friends. This data can be aggregated to create a profile about you. If the survey asks questions that are too personal (such as your sexual preference, or what medical conditions you have), do not complete the survey. This data may be used in the future, not just for ads but also for other profiling purposes. (Answers to security questions can now be based on profiles that you have no control over!)

    Always look for the option to determine what personal data can be collected and shared with others. Give out as little information as possible.


I’m sure your teens are tired about hearing about managing their passwords. No one likes dealing with passwords. Why are questions about passwords good to bring up? Even if teens (or anyone) take great care with privacy settings and what they post, if their accounts are hacked, then all kinds of damage can be done. Therefore a key to online safety is to keep all of your accounts secure. So if your teen replies that they know all about passwords, the following questions are good to go over anyway!

  1. When was the last time you changed your password?

    Change it frequently and make sure the password is neither simple nor obvious! Security professionals recommend changing passwords every three months. Yes, this can be difficult and cumbersome to do.

    Why is this important? It’s been reported that 600,000 Facebook accounts are compromised each day.1 This also happens with Twitter accounts. Password hacking tools are easily available (do a Google search and see).

    If you want enhanced security for your Facebook account, consider using “Login Approvals”. With this feature, you receive a security code on your phone when there is login attempt on your account from an unknown browser or from a different computer. You must enter this code into the different browser or computer to continue. A hacker will not have access to this code since it’s only sent to your mobile phone, and thus will not be able to break into your account. This extra security procedure is a form of two-factor authentication. See Security Settings in Facebook for more information.

  2. Does your password contain general words or phrases or place names or dates that you have posted online, or that are available in your social media profile?

    For example, does your password contain the name of your pet? And do you write about your pet on Facebook? (Pet names are too commonly used for passwords!) Password hackers scour posts for ideas for passwords. Too many people have passwords that are too easy to guess. Keep your passwords cryptic!

  3. Do you use the same user name and/or password for multiple social media applications?

    Don’t do this! If one of your sites/application is compromised, then your other applications are at risk!

  4. Have you lied about your age to gain access to a social media application?

    By respecting the age limit, you protect yourself from seeing content that is inappropriate for your real age - such as in ads. According to the Pew Research Center, 30% of teens reported in a survey that they have been exposed to ads that were not age-appropriate.2 So the age restrictions are there to protect you.

  5. Have you ever received a message (of any type), asking you to log in and verify something on one of your social media applications?

    If so, do not follow the URL (or link) that’s given. It’s most likely going to a fake site/app that looks just like the real one. They are “phishing” for your confidential information. This phishing also applies to bank accounts and similar sites. And if the message contains an attachment, don’t open it! It’s probably malware. Do not believe all of the messages that you receive.

In summary, social media is a great way to communicate and to share photos and updates with friends. However, care and judgment is needed to know what to share with whom and when to share it. Once shared, that image or info can never be retrieved – it’s no longer private. Hopefully these questions will help open up a dialog with your teen so that they can enjoy the benefits of social media safely.