Online safety / April 23, 2021

Youth asked. We answered. Their top 6 questions about living life online.

Amanda Lee

Amanda Lee

Senior Project Manager, TELUS Wise


In October, we published an article about the top 6 questions we get from adults and parents during our TELUS Wise Workshops. We also hold workshops for youth, and their questions and concerns differ from those of their parents or guardians, so we rounded up their top six frequently asked questions and offered some answers and advice.

#1: I want social media, but my parents say no. How can I convince them to let me have it?

This is a very common question. Some parents set their own age limits on when their kids can start using social media. Some only allow access to specific platforms. And others forbid it completely. It’s important to know that many of the “adult” social media sites do have age restrictions. For the most popular sites, like SnapChat and TikTok, you have to be at least 13 years old.

Regardless of your age, it’s important to know that social media demands a lot of responsibility. So educate yourself. And even better, learn with your parents. Sit down with your parents and go through the privacy settings of the apps you want to use. Set up your profile and determine your settings together. Make rules you’re all comfortable with – which sites are ok to use, how much time can you spend on them, who are you allowed to connect with or friend, what you can post, is messaging allowed and so on. If your parents do decide to let you use social media, be responsible, make good choices online and follow the rules you’ve set together. In addition, take time to share your online activities with them, so they have confidence that you are being safe and responsible.

#2: Why do I have to care so much about my digital footprint?

Your digital footprint follows you through your life. And everything you do online contributes to it – usernames you create, pictures you upload and comments you make. It’s important to remember that there is typically no context to what people see online. And they make impressions very quickly. According to Business News Daily reporting on a CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates. That means that what you post online can affect you getting your first job or securing that volunteer opportunity you really want. Before you post, ask yourself: would you want your parent, teacher or employer to read or see what you’re about to put online? If the answer is no (or even if you’re not sure), think twice about posting. Once it’s online, it’s online forever.

#3: What are the best ways to protect my passwords?

Your passwords are the first line of defense for your online accounts (email and social media). Following some basic password hygiene can help to protect your online security:

  • Create passwords that are unique, personal to you and hard to guess (strong passwords often include at least one capital letter, lower case letter, number and special character) - but try to avoid using your name, birthday or pet’s name in your passwords as doing so can make the password easier to hack.
  • Create a different password for each account you have, so if one account gets compromised, the others aren’t vulnerable
  • Keep your passwords private – do not share them with friends (you may consider sharing your password with a trusted adult if you agree together on how, when and why he/she can use your password)

#4: Someone I don’t know asked me for personal information online. What do I do?

Unfortunately, there are people online who are using email and social media to target youth. First, do not connect with anyone online (respond to texts, answer emails or accept friend/follow requests) from people you don’t know.

There are many adults online who pretend to be teens or kids, so they can connect with young people. If someone does ask you for any personal information (photos or your name, address, school etc.), do not provide it. That person could be an online scammer, trying to send you ads you don’t want or worse. No reputable company ever asks for that type of personal information. If you’re downloading an app, and it requests specific information, it’s best to ask a parent or adult first. And trust your feelings. If something feels off, it probably is. If you feel uncomfortable, confide in an adult. They can investigate the situation and report it to the proper authorities if warranted.

#5: I have experienced or witnessed cyberbullying. What should I do?

Unfortunately, with youth spending more time online during the pandemic, cyberbullying has increased as well. According to VeryWell Family, there was a 70% increase in cyberbullying in the early part of 2020. So what can you do if it happens to you or if you see it happening to someone else? If someone is cyberbullying you, the first and best course of action is to ignore it (but save evidence of it just in case). Delete or block that person if possible. If the bullying continues, talk to a trusted adult about what’s happening and how it makes you feel. You can also reach out to Kids Help Phone for support by phone, text, Messenger or Live Chat. If you witness someone else being bullied, speak up. If you know the person being mean, and you feel comfortable doing so, talk to them calmly and ask them to stop. You can also reach out to the person being targeted to see how they are feeling. Provide support. And if the situation worsens, involve a trusted adult. The TELUS Wise and MediaSmarts Impact! tool can help you explore different ways you might be able to help. Regardless of what you’re doing or who you’re interacting with online, be kind. You never know what someone else is going through.

#6: How do I make sure people don’t post photos of me that I don't like?

Permission is the name of the game when it comes to posting photos online. Make sure your friends know they need to ask your permission before posting. And make sure you give them the same courtesy and ask permission before you post. It is also important to check your privacy settings, so only friends and followers can see your photos (for example, when your Instagram profile is set to private, people have to request to follow you, and you must accept before they can see your grid and stories). But remember, anyone can take a screenshot of a photo and share it without you knowing. So choose wisely about what you post and what you send to other people. And be aware of what’s in the background of your photos as well, like the name of the school you attend, for example. You could be unknowingly sharing personal information without intending to do so.

Get tips on what to do if someone posts a photo without your consent, and find out what to do (and not do) if someone sends you a sext.

Learn more about digital safety and citizenship with TELUS Wise workshops online.

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