There is simply no way to completely extract tweens and teens from their virtual universes - once the WiFi is on, it's a Snapchatting free-for-all. 


While peeling kids away from their phone screens can be difficult, there are ways to keep them safe while they 'like and share' their way around their online friend group. 


Every household has different rules when it comes to the internet, but there are a few general guidelines that all families should follow.



As a hard rule, parents should know all of the usernames and passwords for all of their kids' social media platforms, as well as the lock codes for their phones.


Realistically, parents probably won't ever have to invade their teen's privacy by snooping through their Facebook messages, but the precaution should be in place just in case you have any sneaking suspicions or concerns about what your teen is getting up to, online or otherwise. 


If you feel the need to snoop, and find that the passwords have been changed, they lose all social media and WiFi privileges. 



How can we deal with Instagram in an appropriate manner? Michael Keogh, an expert in online etiquette at the Etiquette School of Ireland, has a few pointers for parents. 


"There is an age limit for Instagram, it's thirteen; and as a parent of a thirteen-year-old child, if you are happy for your son or daughter to be on Instagram, Facebook, or any other platform for that matter, it's an internal family issue. But what's important is for parents or guardians to make sure that their kids understand just how serious it is," he explains.


Putting yourself online has become part-and-parcel of 21st century life, but kids need to be made aware of online predators, cyber bullying, and how uploading the wrong picture or comment can have real-life consequences. 



Kids need to know what to put up, what not to put up, and why it's so important to be aware of what they share. 


"Quite often, when they understand the 'why', and they are getting to the age where they do understand the concept of virality now; images can go viral, and they do understand the negative consequences and the potential consequences of the wrong image of them presenting themselves inappropriately going viral.


"They do realise 'think twice before you post'; so with teenagers, it really boils down to education, education, education," said Michael, stressing the importance of a parent's role in setting the guidelines for social media usage, and reiterating to them the potential negative consequences of their virtual actions. 



Privacy settings aren't foolproof, but they can play a huge role in keeping your child safe online.


Take the time to learn how privacy settings work on your kids' sites and apps, and teach your kids how to control the information they make public or private.


Set rules about followers; a good guideline is not following or accepting followers that you have not met at least twice in real life. 



Also, make a social media profile page of your own on every platform your child frequents, and be a friend or follower of your child, to keep tabs on what they are posting or sharing online.


Yeah, we know there will be complaints of "OMG, no one is friends with their parents on Instagram, this is so embarrassing," but they gain another follower, so tell them to stop complaining. 


Having a large amount of followers is a huge thing among teens, as it displays perceived popularity, as does accumulating lots of 'likes' and comments. 


If your teen starts to gain a lot of followers, even if he or she swears they know each and every one of them, it can be worth trawling through and removing ones that you, as a parent, think are suspect. 



Unlike Facebook, Instagram posts tend to be more posed, edited and carefully curated to depict the poster as having the best possible life, so it's worthwhile to have a discussion with your child about how someone's 'Instagram life' may be at total odds with their real one. 


Keeping kids 100 percent safe online is almost impossible, but engaging in an open-minded dialogue with your teens about the dangers can help them make the best possible decisions when it comes to their own online safety. 


And giving them an extra 'like' on their selfie never hurts, either.