Teen Digital Life

Digital Life

Let’s be honest, connecting & interacting online is fun, fulfilling, and can provide us with information we want to know at the click of a button. But with all the benefits, it’s important that we don’t fall into negative habits & interactions when using digital media. Explore below to learn about the art of good digital citizenship, the good & dark sides of the internet, and how to navigate your digital world safely.

Online Platinum Rules

Online Platinum Rules

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

Below are some platinum rules for being online that revolve around safety and protection — of yourself, your self-esteem, your reputation, your privacy, and your heart. Read below to learn some important tips and tools to engage responsibly online.




Social Media:
  • Do not let other people’s opinions begin to weigh more than your own. Most comments have more to do with the commenter than your content.
  • Unfriend/unfollow/block those who make you uncomfortable, and don’t waste time trying to argue with others who engage in digital drama, negative posts, or hate speech.
  • Block and report are helpful tools, use them!
  • Be a value-add on the internet, rather than contributing to the noise and negativity.
  • Think before you post and consider your intentions. What we put online doesn’t go away. It stays with us and can leave a lasting image of who we are — even if we don’t see ourselves that way anymore. Create a positive digital footprint that represents the “real” you!
  • Obtain consent before posting or sharing any images or information about someone else.
Screen Time:
  • Balance your online life with real-time, positive human contact, socially responsible and age-appropriate activities, relationships, and physical exercise.
  • Develop good “unplugging (disconnecting) muscles.”  Try the Take Control Toolkit, courtesy of the Center for Humane Technology.
  • Keep your privacy settings ON and follow the safety guides and terms of service for each platform/app/console/site you use.
Gaming:
  • Actual human beings read/hear what you say, and your online subscription does not give you free reign to be cruel or rude to them.
  • Good sportspersonship rules extend to the virtual world as well: no hate speech, phobic remarks, misogyny, rape “jokes,” or threats.
  • The gamerverse can be particularly toxic for female-identified people — if you are one, keep your antennae tuned and block and report accordingly. If you are not female-identified, shut it down when you see it, and work to not make it worse.
Screen Time

Screen Time

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

Not all screen time is the same, there is a difference between consuming content and creating content, interacting and escaping, learning and playing. All of these have good and bad aspects. Read below to learn some important tips and tools to engage more responsibly when on screens.

Social Media:
  • Electronic communication is good for connecting with others, though not for an active connection: good for sharing information, but not truly communicating.
  • If you are prone to attention or social challenges, anxiety, or OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) then social media can become overwhelming, and can feel like it controls you more than you control it.
  • There is zero shame in asking for help and “parental controls” don’t have to be set up by a caregiver, they can also be set by a roommate, sibling, trusted friend, or even yourself.
Screen Time:
  • Some devices and monitoring software allow you to track how much time, battery, and/or data you spend on each app and can help you improve your screen behavior.
  • Avoid notifications designed to make you check your device more frequently by turning off non-essential notifications.
  • Get rid of apps that stress you out, don’t make your life easier, distract you the most, and/or take up too much time or money.
  • If you find yourself thinking about your app(s) while trying to learn or engage with people in person, you likely are getting too distracted and should remove the app(s) or limit your use for a while.
  • Recognize and increase your awareness towards negative physical, mental, and emotional effects screen use is having on you.
Gaming:
  • Boundaries help create balance: such as no gaming between 9pm and 9am, limiting your use to weekends and non-school nights, or gaming only after you’ve met all your day-to-day responsibilities.
  • When you do game, balance out your games (platform, adventure, shooter, RPG, strategy, sports, simulation, etc.), and don’t focus on only ONE genre or flavor.
  • And, don’t forget that games that involve cards, boards, pawns, dice, and other analog aspects can be just as fun as video games and give your brain a break from the screen.
Physical Effects

Physical Effects

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advocates that you spend no more than an hour or two per day engaged in entertainment media. That works out to ten to fifteen hours a week. If you are using screens for entertainment more hours a week than you are doing your homework or hanging out with friends, it can lead to a host of problems: mental, physical, and emotional. Extensive use of digital media/technology can have a host of physical side effects. Some of these include eye strain, vision issues, carpal tunnel syndrome, “tech neck” (neck pain that’s caused by strain and stress to the muscles and tissues of the cervical spine), and headaches. Read below to learn some important tips and tools to protect yourself against the negative physical effects of being on screens.

Social Media
  • The more you get wrapped up in follower counts, the more likely you are to do something sexy, scandalous, or stupid. Do not risk your health, body parts, or personal safety by doing something risky for the “likes.”
  • The 20/20/20 rule is easy to remember and a great way to avoid the different types of digital eye strain (e.g., headaches, dry eyes, blurred vision, and permanent damage requiring medical intervention) that can occur.
  • For every 20 minutes you spend on a screen, take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away.
  • Mind your privacy settings (as well as your location sharing), as some social networking apps can make it easy for predators to find, track, and locate you IRL (in real life) through GPS (Global Positioning System) location, mapping, and patterns of “checking in” when posting.
Screen Time
  • Holding your device up and in front of your face (rather than down in your lap), stretching your arms to the side and behind you while leaning backwards, and breaks from your devices can help you avoid the dreaded “tech neck” and help your posture.
  • Sleep is important for growth, attention, and mood management. The more artificial light you are exposed to and the closer to bedtime you are exposed to it, can mess with your ability to fall asleep. Try blue glass glasses, having at least an hour of screen-free time before bed, and getting plenty of natural light during the day to help.
Gaming
  • Long periods of screen time, especially in awkward positions or with repetitive movements, can cause physical pain and discomfort; vary your positions, take breaks every 20 minutes, and don’t forget to do other, physical activities that involve moving your body, sunshine, and fresh air.
  • Most video game play is sedentary, and extended and uninterrupted game time promotes a more sedentary lifestyle. This is known to have negative health effects, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
  • Any prolonged noise over 85 decibels (about what you hear when using a blender or lawnmower) can put your ears at risk for permanent damage. Just because you don’t feel pain while playing or listening to music, doesn’t mean you aren’t in danger of hearing loss. Sound doesn’t have to be uncomfortable to do damage. Be sure to not have the volume on your headphones or earbuds up too loud.
Mental & Emotional Effects

Mental & Emotional Effects

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advocates that you spend no more than an hour or two per day engaged in entertainment media. That works out to ten to fifteen hours a week. If you are using screens for entertainment more hours a week than you are doing your homework or hanging out with friends, it can lead to a host of problems: physical, mental, and emotional. Increasingly, research studies are revealing that the negative cost to our young people’s mental health of using digital and social media is significant. Since the introduction of smartphones in 2007, significant increases in the number of 8th to 12th graders exhibiting high levels of depressive symptoms have been observed, and according to the CDC, the suicide rate for teen girls increased by 65% from 2010 to 2015. Other significant risks include body dysmorphia and the loss of self-esteem as young people compare themselves negatively with the (often altered) images of individuals that appear to be prettier/more handsome, thinner/more muscular, more popular, and having more fun. Coupled with this, increased rates of other mental health issues including anxiety, isolation, substance abuse, and the negative fall-out of cyberbullying have been observed. Read below to learn some important tips and tools to protect yourself against the negative mental & emotional effects of being on screens.

Social Media
  • Comparing yourself to other people’s cool blogs/profiles, friends and followers, posts, pictures, bodies, lives, and likes, can leave you feeling increasingly bad about yourself. It’s important to keep in mind that most people tend to post about the exciting, fun, funny, and positive things that are happening: not the boring or unpleasant parts of their lives. Everyone goes through ups and downs in life, and it’s crucial to remember we are not alone.
  • Getting caught up with the need to hide your human imperfections and maintain an idealized version of yourself will create pressure and frustration that can lead to self-esteem issues.
  • Unfortunately, social media is often used by bullies. Insults and personal attacks can be sent and shared repeatedly, causing real harm to the victims. This happens to everyone, but the more time you spend on social media, the more you will have to deal with this. One hack to lower the impact of trollish behavior is to never read the comments — this is where most abuse is likely to happen.
Screen Time
  • The internet is a place as much as it is a thing, and predators always go where children, preteens, and teens are. The anonymity and interactive features of games make them a favorite destination of more than a half-million online predators every day. They use screens to get to kids, because when you are distracted and focusing on something else, you can be easier to manipulate.
  • Most people interact with screens daily. Many interact hourly, and almost always, this is a solo behavior. Even when hanging out with others, we can be focused on our screens. The more time you trade real-time engagement with other people for the distanced connection of a screen, the more likely you are to feel lonely, despite the number of friends and followers you have online.
  • For many people, screens can help reduce feelings of both anxiety and depression. For some the overuse of screens can have the opposite effect: with constant demand and distraction actually making their anxiety and depression worse.
  • The fear of missing out or FOMO is that kinda creepy feeling we sometimes get when we are not plugged into our devices and we sense or worry that “something cool or important is happening somewhere and I am missing it!” If you find that you are having a hard time unplugging without having a FOMO reaction, it is a sign that you may need to be unplugging more, not less.
Gaming
  • Many people play video games “to relax,” though many games actually increase your stress levels; fighting for your life, saving the world, or winning a game can leave you sweaty, shaky, heart racing, irritated, and way more stressed out than you were when you picked up the controller. This can make it harder to engage in learning (e.g., school work) and social activities (like family meals).
  • Likewise, video games can bring up anger and frustration that can carry over to your real-world life. It’s helpful to create distance and time between playing high stakes/energy games and real-world tasks: like not playing agro or anger-inducing games before school, dates, or family dinners, and not playing racing games before you need to drive your actual car somewhere, etc.
  • The gamerverse can be particularly toxic for female-identified people — if you are one, keep your antennae tuned and block and report accordingly. If you are not female-identified, shut it down when you see it, and work to not make it worse.
Distorted Reality

Distorted Reality

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

Screen time is often accompanied by a reflective sheen and aura of altered beauty and false messaging; from trash talk to hyper-edited photos to fake news, these distortions can leave us feeling alienated, less-than, and victimized. Read below to learn some important tips and tools to protect yourself against the negative mental & emotional effects distorted reality can cause.




Social Media
  • Online communication is totally different from real, in-person conversations. Interactions through screens lack a large amount of what makes up human communication: including elements of tone, body language, eye contact, facial expressions, and more aspects which are difficult to recreate online. For some people, this makes interacting easier, but we can also miss important social cues.
  • View posts with a critical eye. What you are seeing may not be true reality. When other people’s feeds are full of curated, edited, filtered versions of themselves, it can set standards that are difficult to keep up with. Getting caught up with the need to hide your human imperfections and maintain an idealized version of yourself will create pressure and frustration that can lead to self-esteem issues.
  • One aspect of our health and well-being that can be impacted by social media is our body image, which is “how you see yourself” when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind. Recognize negative feelings and actions that may be prompted and exacerbated by media use.
  • Fake news stories intended to mislead, exploit, and manipulate social media users with rumors, spam, malware, misinformation, slander, and distracting “noise” are constantly circulating. These are passed through our feeds via false accounts, automated bots, and malicious, misguided, and/or misinformed people. We are all susceptible to this phenomenon and we all have a responsibility to resist these manipulative techniques.
Screen Time
  • True connections and bonds are made when you look someone in the eyes. Losing out on opportunities to connect with people face-to-face decreases opportunities to practice social skills necessary for success in life.
  • Influencers and advertising intentionally push unrealistic ideals on their audiences with the intention of manipulating them to think that being thinner, sexier, or more popular (or other forms of social capital) will make them happier. This kind of media-fueled pressure around perfection can lead to unrealistic standards, warped body images, eating and exercise disorders, and other forms of self-harm.
  • Negative body image is a perception of our self — whether true or distorted — that causes shame, anxiety, or self-consciousness, or that interferes with our relationship with ourselves and/or other people. Some people believe that this impacts only female-identified people, but all people are susceptible to these negative thoughts and feelings too.
Gaming
  • “Trash talk” includes exaggerated, humorously-spirited insults, used during competitive events to intimidate or “roast” one’s competition, lower their confidence, and theoretically make winning easier. It is important to make sure that when/if you ”trash talk” while gaming, that it is good-natured and stays in the spirit of the site; insults involving sexuality, gender, race, women’s private body parts, threats of life or safety, and any mention of sexual assault in any form are never ok.
  • It is easy to lose time while playing games: to blow off responsibilities, let someone down, miss opportunities, or disrupt a sleep schedule if you don’t pay attention. Avoid doing “one-more-level,” and use timers and/or alarms to help.
  • Many people play video games “to relax,” though many games actually increase your stress: fighting for your life, saving the world, or winning a game can leave you sweaty, shaky, heart racing, irritated, and way more stressed out than you were when you picked up the controller.
The Good Side

The Good Side

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

When used responsibly, the internet can provide five essential elements of adolescent self-esteem: control over one’s environment, individuation, self-expression, connection to others, and acceptance. Read below to learn some important tips and tools to experience more of the good side when engaging online.

Social Media
  • Social media allows us to stay connected with friends and family, and to meet and interact with others who share similar interests through online groups, clubs, and teams.
  • Social media can help ramp up your creativity through the sharing of ideas, music, and art, and help you find opportunities to show the world how awesome you are!
  • Social media has been, and still is, a driving force for civil rights. It provides a validating, emotional support network — particularly for marginalized and minority groups. It helps everyone stay informed, interested, allied, aware, and woke.
  • It can provide a sense of belonging; for young people who manage any number of disabilities, are neurodivergent, are on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, or those who have uncommon “niche” interests, the web has provided a unique conduit for building relationships with other similarly situated individuals.
  • It’s fun! Let’s be honest — there are lots of fun things to do using social media. Everything from creating and viewing TikTok videos, playing video games, reading books, chatting online with friends, and more are all fun and fulfilling ways to spend time online.
Screen Time
  • Screens can be a reliable and responsible source of information and education, and can double the chances of people reading every day.
  • Screens can help boost self-esteem by supporting both competitive spirits and creative minds through learning opportunities that require energy and determination: from playing an instrument or learning a language, to cooking and even learning TikTok dances.
  • Escape and entertainment are sometimes necessary, but the primary point of technology is to make our lives easier. Our efforts are more fruitful when utilizing tools such as calendars, timers, to-do lists, etc.
Gaming
  • Online gaming can provide us with challenges and socialization outlets — not the same as physical exercise or an afterschool club — but through technology we can find connection, mental stimulation, motivation, and opportunities to set goals and practice negotiation skills.
  • Social interaction, including online games, can provide us with opportunities to deal with difficult people. In real-life we will rarely have to rescue a hostage, collect treasures, pilot spacecraft, or save the world, but we WILL have to navigate hostile, immature, and offensive people.
  • Gaming is a terrific way to spend time socializing, strategizing, and laughing with our family — creating traditions and memories that can last our entire lifetime.
  • Video games can exercise our cognitive development skills. According to research cited in The Self-Driven Child by William Stixrud, Ph.D., and Ned Johnson, “many video games are ‘hard fun,’ exercising cognitive skills like pattern detection, eye-hand coordination, and hypothesis construction.”
The Dark Side

The Dark Side

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.




Remember that the internet is a breeding ground for toxic behavior, and makes it easy to be misinterpreted or unkind — do not let it make you become insensitive to others, and don’t put up with those who are. Some people try to take advantage of and exploit others through the use of the internet. Be vigilant against attempts at cyberbullying, human trafficking, and exploitation.

  • Exploitation is the act of selfishly taking advantage of someone or a group of people in order to profit from them or benefit oneself.
  • Online enticement is a broad category of online exploitation that includes sextortion. Online enticement involves an individual communicating with someone believed to be a child via the internet with the intent to commit a sexual offense or abduction.
  • Human trafficking is a crime that involves exploiting a person for labor, services, or commercial sex.



Read below to learn some important tips and tools to avoid the dark side of the internet and stay safe when engaging online.

Social Media
  • Focus on operating in and creating safe spaces.
  • Keep your contact list small and to those you know personally as much as possible.
  • The more you get wrapped up in follower counts, the more likely you are to do something sexy, scandalous, or foolish — do not risk your health, body parts, or personal safety by doing something risky for the likes.
Screen Time
  • Any site, app, or game designed for children, preteens, or teens is going to attract predators; keep an eye out for people asking too many personal questions and/or for pictures.
  • Review and update your privacy and security settings on websites and social media regularly to protect your personal data and information.
  • Whether it’s a DM (direct message), a strange email, or a download from a new site — trust your gut. If something feels weird, it probably is.
Gaming
  • Good sportspersonship rules extend to the virtual world as well: no hate speech, phobic remarks, misogyny, rape “jokes,” or threats.
  • The gamerverse can be particularly toxic for female-identified people — if you are one, be aware and block and report accordingly. If you are not female-identified, shut it down when you see it, and work to not make it worse.
  • Online harassment and threats can be especially vicious due to the anonymity that screens can provide trolls. It is important to seek support from people who understand and/or care: especially if you are part of an already vulnerable community or have other difficult things going on in your life.
Unplugging

Unplugging

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

Screen time use can get out of control and if you find yourself ignoring your day-to-day responsibilities, health, or relationships then work to control or curb your habits. Use the Take Control Toolkit, courtesy of the Center for Humane Technology, to help regain a healthy screen use balance and read more below for simple tips and tools for unplugging.

Social Media
  • Turn off data and wifi every once in a while — you will still be able to make calls and text, but the really distracting stuff will be disabled.
  • Create some hard and fast rules such as “only people I know IRL (in real life),”  “people I would invite to my house,” or “people I would want to have dinner with” etc., then go through your contacts and delete/unfollow/unfriend.
  • Get rid of apps that stress you out, don’t make your life easier, distract you the most, and/or take up too much time or money.
Screen Time
  • If you are prone to social or attention issues, anxiety, or OCD, then your devices can start to feel like they control you more than you control them. If you cannot control or curb your screen time, it may be helpful to seek professional help.
  • “Parental controls” can also be set by yourself. Set healthy parameters, enter them into the system, then have someone else enter a password and commit to not giving it to you.
  • Notice how/when sites like TikTok, Netflix, or YouTube autorun the next video (and the next one…), “motivating” you to Just. Keep. Sitting. There.
  • Reflect on how tech use is impacting your health and well-being across multiple aspects of your life.
  • Set downtime limits. Create a custom schedule that allows you to disconnect from your device and focus on actual personal time with yourself and others.
  • Think about why you are picking up your device. Is it because you need to look something up, or are you doing so mindlessly?
Gaming
  • Give face-to-face interactions priority, and don’t make it easier for Non-Player Characters (NPC’s) to connect with you than your own friends and family.
  • Use gaming as a reward. Exercise or socialize for a few hours? Game for an hour. Passed that test you’ve been studying for? Get a new game. Think of it as leveling up.
  • Play games that involve cards, boards, pawns, dice, balls, and other analog means — not just screens.
Finding Balance

Finding Balance

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

Balance your online life with real-time, positive human contact, socially responsible and age appropriate activities, relationships, and physical exercise. Use the Take Control Toolkit, courtesy of the Center for Humane Technology, and read more below for simple tips and tools for finding a healthy screen time balance.

Social Media
  • Commit with friends to spend a certain amount of time together IRL (in real life), not just liking each other’s feeds.
  • Turning off notifications for your social media (or all but a handful of followers) will reduce the pull of your media.
  • Consider removing your most used apps from your device for a few days or for specific days each week to give your mind a break.
Screen Time
  • Though phones can do everything, it helps to use separate devices such as cameras, calculators, and alarm clocks.
  • Plug your devices in at night in a different room than your bedroom.
  • You will sleep better if you avoid screens for at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Write down what you accomplished or what fun thing(s) you did when you were off your screen, to reinforce the benefits to yourself.
  • Exercise your brain in other ways such as reading, art, sports, hobbies, etc.
Gaming
  • Make gaming a team sport as much as possible, playing with friends/family reduces the harm.
  • Reduce the urge to “wake and bake” with games — let your brain fully wake up and adjust before you go online.
  • Avoid gaming right before a social engagement (meals with friends/family) or any new learning (e.g., school work) to ensure you are well-regulated and ready to focus.

 

Take Control

Take Control

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

Screen time can become out of control and if you find yourself ignoring your day-to-day responsibilities, health, or relationships then work to control or curb your habits. Read more below for simple tips and tools for staying in control of your screen time, or check out the Center for Humane Technology’s Take Control Toolkit.

Social Media
  • Distraction-Free (DF) Youtube is a chrome plug-in which gets rid of some suggestions as you’re watching.
  • Every few months, comb through your phone and delete apps you don’t need, use, or that are toxic or expensive. Do the same thing with your contacts.
  • If people make you feel uncomfortable, angry, or bad about yourself, unfriend/unfollow/block them.
Screen Time
  • Encourage screen-free nights and meals in your home.
  • Disconnect fully from devices 1 day a week. Use this time to intentionally reconnect with yourself and those you care about.
  • Turn off notifications within each app and remove toxic apps that promote negative feelings or behaviors, such as sadness, anxiety, or compulsively checking your device.
  • Reduce stress by not charging devices in the room in which you sleep.
  • Our devices are a convenience: if/when they stop being convenient or begin feeling like a chore, just set them down and walk away.
Gaming
  • Adults give themselves time limits, boundaries, and game-free days. Start building those “adulting” muscles now.
  • The people that ONLY play first-person, shoot-em-up/blow-em-up games look different when walking around in the real world. Balance out your games (platform, adventure, shooter, RPG, strategy, sports, simulation, etc.), and don’t focus on only ONE genre or type.
Obsession

Obsession

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

When used properly, our devices can help with challenges such as depression and anxiety, though sometimes and for some people, they can also make those challenges worse. Read more below for simple tips and tools for staying in control of your screen time, or check out the Center for Humane Technology’s Take Control Toolkit.

Social Media
  • Everything about notifications are designed to make you check them frequently — you can disable them to reduce the pull and distraction of your apps.
  • Your number of friends/followers online is not a real-world badge of how popular, cool, or glamorous you are — it only feels that way.
  • If you begin imagining hearing alerts, ringtones, or other notifications when you are away from your device or are dreaming of apps on your phone, it is a sign that you need to take a break.
  • Recognize “obsessive” behaviors such as: waking up at night to check your notifications, constantly checking feeds and posts (your own and others), having consistent thoughts about online media that interrupt your daily activities and emotions, etc.
Screen Time
  • The fear of missing out or FOMO is that feeling we sometimes get when we are not plugged into our devices and we sense or worry that “something cool or important is happening somewhere and I am missing it!” If you find that you are having a hard time unplugging without having a FOMO reaction, it is a sign that you may need to be unplugging more, not less.
  • “Binging” used to be a bad word. Just because the streaming service dropped the entire season at once, does not mean you HAVE to watch it that way. Try spreading the episodes out and enjoying the show over time. Delayed gratification can be even more gratifying!
  • Remember, you do not necessarily need to halt your use completely — health is about balancing media with other, real-world recreational, educational, and social activities.
  • Think about why and how many times you are picking up your device. Is it because you need to look something up, or are you doing so mindlessly?
Gaming
  • It is easy to lose time while playing games, and it can be far too easy to blow off responsibilities, let someone down, miss opportunities, or disrupt a sleep schedule if you don’t pay attention. Avoid doing just “one-more-level,” and remember, timers and alarms can help.
  • Taper your use and motivate yourself to make healthy, day-to-day choices by tying gaming to specific and measurable goals: such as a reward for every mile you run, each book you finish reading, test that you pass, or predetermined amount of money that you put into savings.
  • Avoid gaming right before social engagements (meals with friends/family) or any new learning (e.g., school work) to ensure you are well-regulated and ready to focus.
  • Is gaming taking over your life? Take a short quiz at GameQuitters.com to find out and find support and additional resources if needed.
  • If you cannot find a way to control or curb your gaming, then it may be necessary to seek professional help from a therapist/counselor in your area.
Relationships

Relationships

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

Our screens can allow us to stay connected with friends, family, and others who share similar interests through online groups, clubs, and teams. But it can also get in the way of making those relationships and connections as well. Read below to learn some important tips and tools to support healthy relationships both on and offline.

Social Media
  • Your friend count online is not a real-world badge of how popular or loved you are — do not confuse followers with IRL (in real life) friendships.
  • Do not share passwords. If needed, only share your passwords with a trusted caregiver; friends and intimate relationships may change and you don’t want just anyone having access to your personal information and social media accounts.
  • Unfriend/unfollow/block those who make you uncomfortable, and don’t waste time trying to argue with others who engage in digital drama, negative commenting, or hate speech.
  • Think before you post and consider your intentions and how your post will impact the feelings of others.
  • Obtain consent before posting or sharing any images or information about someone else.
Screen Time
  • Spending too much time on a device can take away from family time, or time spent with friends. Balance your online life with real-time, positive human contact.
  • Unfriend/unfollow people who make you uncomfortable — on most platforms the blocked or unfriended individuals don’t get a notification that you did so.
Gaming
  • Most online gaming is done in isolation; balance out hours of video gaming with IRL (in real life) activity.
  • Make gaming a connective activity involving real-world friends and family as much as you can.
  • Gaming can increase our cortisol/stress hormones, heart rate, competitiveness, and frustration.
  • Gaming alone before social activities like family meals or school can make it harder to engage with others.
Friends

Friends

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

Many people have a combination of friends they spend time with in-person, and friends they have online. Read below to learn some important tips and tools to support healthy friendships both on and offline.

Social Media
  • Have a litmus test for whom you friend and follow.
  • Shared experiences — including online ones — are good for helping people connect.
  • The more you use social media to make others feel included and empowered, the more it will help you do the same.
  • Unfriend/unfollow/block people who make you uncomfortable — on most platforms the blocked or unfriended individuals don’t get a notification that you did so.
  • Think before you post and consider your intentions and how your post will impact the feelings of others.
Screen Time
  • Don’t make it easier for Non-Player Characters (NPC’s) to connect with you than your actual friends.
  • The more time you spend in front of a screen, the easier it is for your social skills and manners to atrophy or weaken.
  • Messaging and online chatting can make it easier to talk about heavier, more personal topics. Be cautious who you share information with. Assume that anything you share on social media can be shared with everyone including teachers, grandparents, police, or classmates.
Gaming
  • Online multiplayer games have been shown to promote social interaction and friendships.
  • Video games can be a safe place to experiment with social interactions, especially for people who are shy or socially anxious.
  • Work to make your gaming interactions as positive as possible: no hate speech, misogyny, racist, or phobic statements.
Posting Regret

Posting Regret

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

We all have off days. We all make mistakes. With the speed at which we are trained to act and react online, it is almost certain that at some point, you are going to cross a line and hurt someone’s feelings, reputation, or relationship through your online actions. Read below to learn some important tips and tools to help you engage responsibly, make better decisions, and avoid posting regret.

Social Media
  • Think before you post. The consequences of your behavior can have very, very heavy impacts on the people you are targeting. Reflect on the intention of your post and think about how your post might affect others. Be sure to ask yourself if you are posting to make someone jealous, hurt someone’s feelings, or if it might make someone feel left out.
  • If you hurt someone’s feelings, offended someone, did something that crossed the line of OK or seemed rude, shared personal details that someone trusted you with, or posted something racist, sexist, or “phobic,” then apologize ASAP and take it down.
  • Digital communications come with a built-in sense of immediacy, but resolving things doesn’t always work like that; rebuilding trust and relationships takes a while. Try to reach out in-person or via a phone call to the individual(s), if you can.
Screen Time
  • Trying to feel better about yourself by making someone else feel worse will only keep you feeling crappy about yourself.
  • We live in a digital age, and treating people as less-than or tormenting and/or using threats against others is not tolerated. At best you can be suspended from certain apps, at worst you can face criminal charges.
  • If you hurt someone online, make it right by calling out what you did, showing why you think it was wrong, explaining what you have learned, and committing to doing it differently in the future.
Gaming·
  • Targeting, attacking, insulting, or treating someone differently because of things they cannot change (such as their skin color, place of birth, sexuality, or gender etc.) is NOT OK.
  • The consequences of your behavior can have significant impacts on the people you target.
  • If you think you have a problem and/or may be a bully, don’t be embarrassed to ask for help from a school counselor or other professional.
Nude Pics

Nude Pics

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

It is important to understand that (in most places) sharing nude images is against the law when anyone involved is under the age of 18, and it can bring both social and legal consequences. If you have posted a nude picture and need to have it taken down off the internet, Netsmartz can help, CLICK HERE. Read below to learn some important tips and tools to help you post responsibly.




Social Media
  • People may feel coerced or pressured into trading pictures because it’s “polite,” “only fair,” or “good manners.” That is not a thing.
  • Likewise, you do not have to reciprocate when someone sexts you unsolicited.
  • Sexting can be a great way to discuss likes and dislikes and learn about your partner, but remember that words can be much more attractive than pictures.
  • You should assume that anything you share on social media and via text message can be shared with everyone including caregivers, teachers, friends, grandparents, police, or classmates. Be careful what you send and to whom you send it.
Screen Time
  • At some point, someone is going to try and request/charm/coerce a nude picture from you. Don’t do it.
  • When you flirt digitally, keep it text-only, keep it PG-13, and keep it between you and the person you are flirting with.
  • When you share an image, you lose all control of it and it can end up changing your life in ways you do not intend now and in the future.
Gaming
  • When gaming, keep your focus on the game. Be wary of those who do not.
  • If you receive messages that make you uncomfortable, block the person and let a trusted adult know.
Digital Footprint

Digital Footprint

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

When you interact through screens, think through the consequences of your actions, understand the impact of your behavior on others, and behave appropriately, responsibly, and safely so as to protect your reputation, your partners, friends, family, and yourself. Be a value-add on the internet, rather than contributing to the noise and negativity. Read below to learn some important tips and tools to help you stay in charge of your digital footprint.

Social Media
  • Anytime you hit “send” it provides someone, somewhere a record of your behavior that is no longer in your control. Assume that anything you share on social media can be shared with everyone including teachers, grandparents, police, or classmates.
  • Use privacy settings to control and manage your updates and your audience to increase your freedom around being your authentic self online. Click BLOOM’s Safety & Privacy page to find out how.
  • Even with the best privacy settings, your posts may be seen by people who don’t ask, need, or want to see them.
  • Think before you post and consider your intentions. What we put online doesn’t go away. It stays with us and can leave a lasting image of who we are…even if we don’t see ourselves that way anymore. Create a positive digital footprint that represents the “real” you!
Screen Time
  • Do not compromise your values or reputation just because you are online.
  • When (not if) you screw up, correct your mistakes to maintain the integrity of the sites and platforms you use as well as yourself.
  • Keep your feeds and interactions positive: no hate speech, phobic remarks, misogyny, rape “jokes,” or threats.
  • Let your content speak for itself and do not rely on being silly, scandalous, or foolish to gain followers or likes.
Gaming
  • You are never as anonymous as you think you are; what you say today can come back to haunt you, weeks, months, or years later.
  • Be respectful of stated rules, and always follow the terms of use for the social platforms, sites, and games you use.
  • Don’t forget that actual human beings read the words you post/text/send, and remember that your computer does not give you free reign to be cruel or rude to anyone.
Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

Cyberbullying is defined as embarrassing, harassing, threatening, or attacking someone via the internet or technology: this includes phones, computers, and tablets as well as social media sites, text messages, chat groups, apps, and websites. Read below to learn some important tips and tools to help you avoid being part of, or the target of cyberbullying.

Remember to Stop it, Block it, and Report it!




Social Media
  • Do not post or say things online that you would not in person.
  • Assume that anything you share on social media can be shared with everyone including teachers, grandparents, police, or classmates.
  • Don’t forward other people’s personal or private messages or pictures, or pass on or repost any evidence of anyone else’s humiliation.
  • Block all individuals posting or participating in rude or threatening messages on your phone or social media accounts.
  • Report threats or vicious, untrue, or cruel messages to a caregiver, teacher, or other trusted adult that you know.
Screen Time
  • The anonymity that screens SEEM to give can make cyberbullying very tempting.
  • With the internet comes responsibility, and doing your part to stop cyberbullying helps everyone.
  • Educate yourself and others about the effects of cyberbullying.
Gaming
  • Pay attention to how your friends treat people online as well, and say something when/if they cross the line.
  • Do NOT ever contribute to any particular person’s death by encouraging anyone to die or hurt themselves.
  • Do not reciprocate when others behave negatively. Remove yourself from the situation if you become too angry.



Hacked

Hacked

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

In an ideal internet, you could exist and interact without worrying about hackers, malware, and cyber-attacks. Unfortunately, this is not the world we live in and taking safety measures to ensure this doesn’t happen to you is necessary. If you feel your account was hacked in any way, immediately change your passwords and notify a trusted adult. Read below to learn some important tips and tools to help protect yourself from being hacked.

Social Media
  • Work to create strong passwords that decryption programs can’t easily crack.
  • Commit to two-factor authentication to improve your security.
  • Do not share passwords. If needed, only share your passwords with a trusted caregiver; friends and intimate relationships may change and you don’t want just anyone having access to your personal information and social media accounts.

Screen Time

  • Most phishing and malware attacks are carried out via fake emails, so be careful clicking or downloading attachments or online links from people you do not know.
  • If/when you can’t avoid public WI-FI, use a secure network or an app to create a VPN (virtual private network).
  • Avoid posting any personal information or details that might allow a hacker to guess your security questions. Many social media quizzes are designed to get that information from you.
  • If you are tricked into disclosing personal information by a targeted scam, change your login, password, and PINs (personal identification numbers) on the real site, then notify your banks and/or the business where the fraud occurred. Ask to speak to their fraud department.
Gaming
  • Never install software mods from unrecognized links sent via emails, instant messaging, etc. Instead, only go to the official app store or game store to install the games.
  • If anyone besides you has gained access into your account, you should change your password immediately.
  • If you have been hacked, warn your contacts not to click on suspicious messages that may have been sent using your account; flag specific messages if you can, and delete them from your feed.
Hate Speech

Hate Speech

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

Hate speech (abusive words or threats) towards someone because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender expression can be difficult and distressing to experience, whether or not you are the target. Read below to learn some important tips and tools to help you navigate and avoid being a part of hate speech online.




Social Media
  • Many people use the anonymity of our screens as an excuse to say horrible things that they wouldn’t say to someone’s face. Don’t be that person, and don’t put up with those who do.
  • Report threats or vicious/cruel messages to a caregiver, teacher, or an adult that you trust. Most platforms will have a block and report function for people who are being offensive or inappropriate.
  • Keep your feeds and interactions positive: no hate speech, phobic remarks, misogyny, rape “jokes,” or threats.
  • Assume that anything you share on social media can be shared with everyone including teachers, grandparents, police, or classmates.
  • Unfriend/unfollow/block those who make you uncomfortable, and don’t waste time trying to argue with others who engage in digital drama, negative commenting, or hate speech.
  • Be a value-add on the internet, rather than contributing to the noise and negativity.
  • Block and report are helpful tools, use them!
Screen Time
  • Collecting evidence can help you report hate crimes: this can include photos, video, and copies of messages (written, electronic, and verbal).
  • Using your screens to get and stay connected to a larger network of people can help remind us that there are places we belong and groups that will embrace us — even if some others do not.
  • Things such as activism, pride, and other forms of support create opportunities for growth and supporting others, which can balance out the negative effects of hate.
 Gaming
  • Do not create sexual, violent, or offensive screen names, avatars/gamer tags, or profiles.
  • When you see someone else being targeted or harmed, it is important (now more than ever) to be an upstander rather than a bystander.
  • Remember that you did not (and do not) deserve to be targeted. Understand that this still happens anyway, but know that the world (and most people in it) are still good.



Digital Manipulation

Digital Manipulation

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

Persuasive design is almost everywhere in technology: habit-forming features designed to keep users maximally engaged with digital products and to prioritize their devices over their body’s social and physical needs. In order to balance out the manipulation of persuasive design, users must understand what it is and notice when it is being used. Read below to learn some important tips and tools to help recognize and avoid the traps of digital manipulation.

Social Media
  • Stickers, tokens, and sounds are highly reinforcing, as are rewards for prolonged or repeated use of an app and the ability to share what you’re doing on social media (e.g., Snapstreaks).
  • Most phones allow you to limit or silence notifications, noises, and other manipulating draws for your attention.
  • Those ads that cross platforms and the influencers selling the same products mean that you are not the consumer, you are the product.
Screen Time
  • Notice how/when sites like TikTok, Instagram, Netflix, or YouTube autorun the next video (and the next one…), “motivating” you to Just. Keep. Sitting. There.
  • Tech like Google, Siri, YouTube, some news sites, etc. remember your past behavior and prioritize what they think you want to see. This means you will be fed more and more of the same or similar things, and not information or ideas that broaden your horizons.
Gaming
  • The more fast-paced, or single-player focused your games are, the harder it can be to unplug and spend time on your responsibilities and relationships.
  • It can be harder to calm yourself to engage and focus on learning and/or social interactions following gaming. Try to avoid doing it before school work, meals with friends/family, and sleep.
  • Video games give coins, badges, and other rewards to make you feel like you are mastering something, which will entice you to keep coming back for more.
  • The more time a designer can get you to spend on a game, the more add-ons and extras you are tempted to purchase. This is on purpose. Time limits can help resist this pull.
Etiquette

Etiquette

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

The social rules of sharing the internet with other humans is called netiquette: things such as respectful language, friending and following wisely, fact-checking, and other positive online social skills. Read below to learn some important tips and tools for using good digital etiquette online.

Social Media
  • Let others choose when their photos, conversations, and locations are posted and always ask before invading someone’s privacy by tagging them without permission.
  • Avoid negativity, cussing, oversharing, spoiling, poor grammar, and misspellings. Do not post when rushed, exhausted, intoxicated, or very angry.
  • Always assume that anything you share on social media can be shared with everyone including teachers, grandparents, police, employers, or classmates.
  • Do not invest your time, energy, or money in apps that mask your identity, hide your behavior, promote cruel behavior, encourage you to lie, or make it easy for you to be located by people you do not know.
Screen Time
  • Avoid areas of the web that focus on negative, inappropriate, or unsafe sexual depictions as well as sites that promote hate speech, bigotry, or other forms of prejudice.
  • Do not waste your time or energy trying to argue with or correct people that use the internet to spread hate or things that are not true.
  • Think through the consequences of your actions, understand the impact of your behavior on others, and behave appropriately, responsibly, and safely so as to protect your family, friends, and yourself.
Gaming
  • Do not reciprocate when others behave negatively, and remove yourself from the situation if/when you become too angry.
  • Be polite in your interactions online, using the same manners, language, and level of respect that you would in public. Do not say anything in a chat, email, or post that you would not say in public or want a caregiver or teacher to overhear.
  • Balance your online life with real time, positive human contact, socially responsible and age-appropriate activities, relationships, and physical exercise.
Safety

Safety

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

Online safety is just as important as personal safety in the real world. Read below to learn some important tips and tools for staying safe while online. You can also visit BLOOM’s Safety & Privacy page for specific safety setting instructions for some of today’s most popular social apps and games.




Social Media
  • Make your accounts private.
  • Use a strong password that uses capitals, a longer password, and special characters. Avoid using the same passwords throughout multiple accounts and set up your security questions.
  • Be selective with friend requests. If you don’t know the person, don’t accept their request. It could be a fake account.
  • Do not make physical contact with anyone you have met online without the permission of your caregiver(s) and someone to accompany you.
  • NEVER meet anyone you only know online, alone.
  • Do not take, post, send, or keep nude pictures of ANYONE under the age of 18 even (and especially) yourself.
  • Notify your caregiver(s) and the social media platform immediately if you encounter anything, or are contacted by anyone, who makes you feel uncomfortable.
Screen Time
  • Use a strong password that uses capitals, a longer password, and special characters. Avoid using the same passwords throughout multiple accounts and set up your security questions.
  • Protect your personal information online: including your full name, address, passwords, phone number, social security number, and credit card numbers (and anyone else’s).
  • Avoid areas of the web that focus on negative, inappropriate, or unsafe sexual depictions or sites that promote hate speech, bigotry, and other forms of prejudice.
  • If you are tricked into disclosing personal information by a targeted scam, change your login, password, and PINs (personal identification numbers) on the real site, then notify your banks and/or the business where the fraud occurred. Ask to speak to their fraud department.
  • Protect your computer by installing antivirus software to safeguard against malware. Also ensure that your browser, operating system, and software are kept up to date.
  • Avoid clicking on any unexpected link.
Gaming
  • Make your accounts private.
  • Use a strong password that uses capitals, a longer password, and special characters. Avoid using the same passwords throughout multiple accounts and set up your security questions.
  • Stay cautious when someone attempts to turn an online conversation sexual — especially if they ignore attempts to change the subject.
  • Report cyberbullying to administrators, caregivers, and/or police.
  • Do not download anything without permission, paying for it yourself, and making certain that it is from a reliable source.
Privacy Settings

Privacy Settings

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

No matter what you are doing online, it’s important to set and revisit your privacy settings on a regular basis. Read below to learn some important tips and tools for maintaining your privacy while online. You can also visit BLOOM’s Safety & Privacy page for specific privacy setting instructions for some of today’s most popular social apps and games.

Social Media
  • Make your accounts private.
  • Use your privacy settings to control and manage your updates and audiences to increase your freedom around being your authentic self, online.
  • All networking platforms have options for privatizing and limiting messages, use them to target your posts to appropriate audiences.
  • You are who you network with; friend and follow only people you want to be associated with.
Screen Time
  • Do not share passwords with anyone except your caregiver(s). This includes friends: yes, even your best one and the one you are dating.
  • Do not give out personal information to anyone online, including your full name, address, passwords, phone number, social security number, or credit card numbers (or anyone else’s).
  • Many apps have location sharing on by default, allowing anyone else with the app to see what you’re up to and where you are — this is very dangerous.
Gaming
  • Make your accounts private.
  • Keep your volume low enough for no one else but you to hear your game, video, conversation, or song.
  • Keep in mind that even with the best privacy settings, your posts may be seen by people who don’t ask, need, or want to see it.
  • Blocking allows you to defuse a situation, without aggravating it or changing the course of history, plus your karma and reputation will stay intact.
Online Drama

Online Drama

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

Everyone who interacts with other humans on the internet will most likely experience cruel behavior sooner or later. Read below to learn some important tips and tools to help you avoid being part of, or the target of online drama.

Social Media
  • If someone targets you online, don’t stay silent or try to deal with it on your own. Friends, caregivers, and school staff are your best choices to obtain help or advice.
  • In most situations, you can unfriend/unfollow/block someone without them being alerted that you are doing so.
  • When you see someone else being targeted or harmed, it is important (now more than ever) to be an upstander rather than a bystander.
  • Unfriend/unfollow/block those who make you uncomfortable, and don’t waste time trying to argue with others who engage in digital drama, negative commenting, or hate speech.
  • Block and report are helpful tools, use them!
  • Be a value-add on the internet, rather than contributing to the noise and negativity.
Screen Time
  • Think before you post; the consequences of your behavior can have very, very heavy impacts on the people you target.
  • Assume that anything you share on social media can be shared with everyone including teachers, grandparents, police, or classmates.
  • All responsible apps, social networks, and gaming systems have blocking and reporting options.
  • If someone threatens to physically harm you or someone you care about, you should always take those threats seriously and report them to a trusted adult.
Gaming
  • Remember that no matter how personal a troll may try to make it, these attacks are not about you; they’re about what you represent to the troll.
  • If you are a member of a racial, ethnic, or religious minority, if you identify as a woman, LGBTQ+, or you belong to any other typically marginalized group, the chances of someone targeting you online go up.
  • If you have been victimized, do not lash out at others. Seek help.

Resources

A list of BLOOM's trusted resources to find more information and support… VIEW ALL

Books, Apps & Podcasts
Social Awakening

Social Awakening helps teens, schools, and parents survive and thrive in this digital world. Young people are tired of the finger-wagging from parents and teachers who “just don't get it." Both as an industry insider and as an award-winning artist & storyteller, our CEO and Speaker, Max Stossel, is able to connect with students in a way that others simply cannot. www.socialawakening.org

Parenting in the Screen Age: A Guide for Calm Conversations
By Delaney Ruston, M.D.

This guide shows you how to start—and sustain— productive family talks about technology.

Screenwise
By Devorah Heitner, Ph.D.

Offers a realistic and optimistic perspective on how to thoughtfully guide kids in the digital age.

Glow Kids
By Nicholas Kardaras, Ph.D.

How technology has profoundly affected the brains of children—and not for the better.

Raising Humans in a Digital World
By Diana Graber

Helping kids build a healthy relationship with technology.

APPropriate

The parenting/tech education podcast around social media apps.

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