teens on the internet

4 Tips To Setting Internet Rules for Teens

Internet rules for teens are a hot topic amongst parents, particularly as friendships are increasingly going or starting online for teens.

Parents bring up concerns about safety, appropriate messages, and cyberbullying.

Teens, in response, talk about how important the online platforms are for them to stay in contact with their friends or how “uncool” they would be to not be active on certain platforms.

>>> FREE DOWNLOAD: Depression & Anxiety Toolkit for Parents Raising Teen Girls <<<

10 tools you can immediately use to improve your female identifying teens’ mental health & build resistance against depression & anxiety:


Anxiety & Depression Toolkit for Parents Raising Teen Girls


From my perspective, both parents & teens have some valid points in the discussion around internet rules. In bridging these two seemingly opposite perspectives, I often make use of the following tips in my work with parents:

4 Tips To Setting Internet Rules for Teens

internet rules for teens

Photo From Canva Pro

Internet Rules for Teens Tip #1: Try to involve your teen as much as possible in the decision-making process.

Your teen is significantly more likely to agree and stick to online guidelines if they have had a say in the matter. This doesn’t mean that the teen gets what they want, in fact, a sign of a good compromise is that neither party is 100% happy. Instead, have a curious conversation about why online friendships are important to your teen and take a moment to genuinely listen to their perspective. It may even be helpful to think back to your own teenage years, when friends, peers, and “fitting in” were all important topics.

Once your teen feels more understood, there is a chance to explain your perspective, whether it be concerns about screen time, privacy, online safety, secrecy, or cyberbullying. Depending on the age of your teen, your family values, and how your teen is doing in other areas such as school, the guidelines can vary from family to family. Here are a few topics that are important to explore:

  • screen time
  • privacy settings
  • the different platforms
  • appropriate messages and content
  • what information to share with who
  • peer pressure
  • what to do if an unsafe conversation happens

Pro tip: helping teens understand the why of the guidelines is an essential element of explaining your perspective.

Internet Rules for Teens Tip #2: Understand that an outright ban is likely to have negative consequences

internet rules for teens

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

While it can be tempting to ban social media, online friendships, or using certain platforms, taking an all-or-nothing approach is likely to backfire.

Having a strict ban on social media or online friendships tends to result in teen secrecy and reduces healthy and open parent-teen communication. This open communication is especially important in the event of

harmful online interactions.

And teens are smart! I have worked with teens who have hidden apps on their phone’s home screen, have multiple profiles, or even used a second phone.

Similarly, having no restrictions or regulations whatsoever can also be harmful, as your teen may not be mature enough to process the content, set healthy limits, manage their time or responsibilities, or realize how social media may be affecting them. Your level of involvement really depends on your family rules in general, and your teen specifically. For some, you may need to be more involved in setting guidelines and monitoring (at least for a time).

When deciding how involved to be in your teen’s online world, be mindful of the desire for privacy and confidentiality in conversations between friends. It might be helpful to check in on your own why and ask yourself if you are monitoring the conversations due to a legitimate safety concern, or if you are using it as a back door to understand your teen.

internet rules for teens

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Internet Rules for Teens Tip #3: Talk about online safety

Online safety is so important and encompasses many areas. Privacy settings and revealing personal information are one area to address, as default settings are rarely restricted in terms of who can access or see the information. What appropriate content is, whether in terms of messages, photos, or videos, is an important discussion to have with your teen.

Invariably, teens will be exposed to harmful comments, cyberbullying, peer pressure to engage in risky behaviours, and more. In my mind, the question is more of a “when” than an “if”, and when exposure like this does happen, hopefully, your teen feels comfortable enough to approach you with their concerns.

As a parent, this requires you to stay reasonably calm, thank your teen for their openness, and make sure any consequences are reasonable and appropriate.

An unfortunate reaction I have seen is when teens I work with disclose a harmful online interaction with their parents,  and their parents react with extreme emotion. Sometimes, parents have taken their teen’s phone away. Oftentimes, this results in the teen learning that their phone will be taken away if they share with their parents. Meaning they don’t share in the future.

Internet Rules for Teens Tip #4: Online friendships are a valid source of connection

Although online friendships look a little different than the brick-and-mortar variety, they can still provide the benefits that in-person friendships do. Many teens develop meaningful connections over the internet and describe some of these friendships as offering support, providing meaning, helping with stress, and in some cases being their best friends.

You can help your teen determine how good their friendships are (both online or in-person) with my colleagues blog article: Teen Friendships: 7 Questions to Decide if They Are Good Ones.

For teens that may be struggling to find meaningful connections in places like school, online friendships can meet that fundamental human need for belonging and connection.

>>> FREE DOWNLOAD: Depression & Anxiety Toolkit for Parents Raising Teen Girls <<<

10 tools you can immediately use to improve your female identifying teens’ mental health & build resistance against depression & anxiety:


Anxiety & Depression Toolkit for Parents Raising Teen Girls
internet rules for teens

Photo by Windows on Unsplash

The bottom line to the complex and challenging topic of internet rules for teens, is that keeping a safe line of communication open between you and your teen is ultimately one of the best ways to support them in navigating online friendships.

The internet is here to stay and developing healthy ways of interacting online is a valuable skill.

Be willing to invite your teen’s perspective on setting healthy guidelines for online friendships and open to sharing your own. As much as possible, view the conversations from an “us versus the challenge” mindset, instead of a more divisive “you versus me”.

If your female identifying teen could use support with online friendships (or friendships in generally), safety on the internet, or developing social skills, I offer 1:1 therapy for Alberta residents. You can book a free consultation with me HERE.



Jessa Tiemstra

Provisional Psychologist servicing female identifying teens and young adults.



Jessa is a provisional psychologist living and servicing teens and young adults in Calgary, Alberta.

Jessa is passionate about helping people become the best version of themselves and is continually learning how to best support her clients. She has experience with acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), but most importantly she emphasizes the therapeutic relationship.

A safe, authentic relationship is key for therapy to work. Jessa prioritizes compassion and nonjudgmental curiosity. Together, she can find out what matters most to you and how to get there.

If you think Jessa may be a good match for you, please feel free to reach out and set up a free consult or book a session. She is looking forward to hearing from you!

Once a month, she writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents, teens and young adults she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.