Q: I’ve seen some of my 14-year-old daughter’s Snapchat and Instagram posts and she comes across very differently online to the way she does at home. How can I talk to her about being more honest about her online identity?
A: Will Gardner, director of the UK Safer Internet Centre (saferinternet.org.uk), says: “Many parents worry that being online can place pressures on young people which affect how they present themselves. Yet young people see being online as an integral part of their identity, a space to curate how they’re seen, experiment, express their views and have fun. Your daughter may be experimenting with different ways of presenting herself.
“We work with young people, talking regularly to them about how they navigate pressures, resist them, and what being online means to them. It’s important to start a conversation with your daughter about what she likes about the platforms she uses and how it makes her feel. Listening to why she posts in such a way will give you the best possible idea of how you can support her. We often find parents think young people don’t want to speak to them about their online lives. But we know young people do want to be able to discuss these issues, yet in a balanced way that recognises how central technology is to their lives. Your daughter may be more open and receptive to having this conversation if she recognises you understand this.
“While the internet is often a place of positivity, fun and learning, it can bring added pressures to act or behave in a certain way to fit in. Peer pressure online is just as significant as peer pressure offline and, as young people are developing and looking for a place in the world, they may feel this heightened pressure to look or act in a certain way. Talk about your experiences and how you managed social pressure to fit in when you were growing up, or even as an adult, and how similar it can be. Encourage her to see the internet can introduce her to all sorts of ways of presenting herself. Many people online are proud to be different and rally others to also celebrate uniqueness.”