Our children are “digital natives”, an ultra-connected generation,  and most of them are able to use touch screens at the same time as they learn to speak! For teenagers and pre-teens in the process of building their identity, the Internet and social networks are a real field of social experimentation, where they can assert themselves and obtain recognition from their peers.

According to a report published in 2016 by l’Observatoire français des drogues et des toxicomanies (French Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction), 11-year-olds spend more than 5 hours a day in front of screens, and more than 8 hours a day for 15-year-olds! Their activities are varied: they do research, watch videos, chat with their friends, consult forums and play online. They have access to platforms and content almost any time of the day or night, and from almost anywhere, as long as they are connected.

This is not without consequences for their health for those who stay up late on their screens or spend a lot of time on social networks. Several national studies have reported chronic fatigue and sleep deprivation, but also long-term concentration problems and sometimes a loss of self-esteem (for those who regularly post photos of themselves and seek the approval of others, for example).

Finally, some teenagers may be exposed to violence from adults or peers, but also from perpetrators. If they start in a virtual space, their consequences can nevertheless be very real! Therefore, it is important to inform them about these abuses and to help them adopt responsible behaviour to respect others and protect their privacy.

Protecting personal data and privacy

It is important for young people to understand that information or photos posted online are digital traces of their identity and their life that can remain visible to everyone forever. Ask them to ask themselves the following questions before posting:

  • Would they be willing to post it at the entrance of their college / high school?
  • Would they be willing to have it shared with strangers?
  • Would it harm them?
  • Would they be willing to have it displayed in 10 years’ time?

If they have created accounts on social networks, help them to set up the accessibility and confidentiality of their profile and/or provide them with prevention materials that they can consult.

Images from  “10 conseils de la CNIL pour rester Net sur le web

You can print out this information leaflet from the association e-Enfance here.

Today’s teenagers, especially young girls, do not hesitate to put themselves on stage to produce and exchange images of an intimate nature. It is essential to inform them about the risks of sexist and sexual cyber-violence.

Also make them aware of their responsibilities regarding what they share, the need to be respectful and to have the consent of the people concerned. A quick legal reminder: people (including minors) who harass someone by repeated comments or behaviour can risk up to 45,000 euros if they are committed against minors under 15 years of age and through digital or electronic media (Article 222-33-2-2 of the Criminal Code)

An awareness-raising clip to reflect on the potential consequences of one’s actions in the event of non-consensual sharing: