Why Teens Are Secretive About Their Online Lives

How do I know what my teen is doing online — are they keeping secrets on social media?

Is your teen secretive about their online life? Research shares that two thirds of teens surveyed say they have engaged in at least one risky behavior online and have experienced some form of cyberbullying.

Fifteen percent say they have met strangers online, while 1 in 5 girls surveyed said they have sent sexually explicit photos. This is very troubling.

PexelBoyPhoneDifferent studies and surveys conclude that cyberbullying is on the rise, which is understandable with more screen-time combined with the stress and anxiety that most are feeling.

People are acting out of fear and frustration without consideration of how their comments, posts or other online behavior will impact their peers.

Social Media has affected many teens with its toxicity. Different studies support the fact about social media causing depressive symptoms in teens or everyone in general.

A study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania concurred that a high usage of social media increased loneliness and depression. It is hard to handle the negativity, racism, shaming, and harassment teens face on a daily basis. Cyberbullying and unrealistic expectations that are difficult to meet also contribute to added depression or anxiety in teens.

What teens face online:

  • Sexting scandals
  • Cyberbullying, harassment
  • Sextortion, revenge porn
  • Ugly poll contests
  • Racial slurs
  • Catfishing
  • Online predators
  • Fear of being cancelled
  • And much more.

Why teens will be secretive about online troubles

Although some teens will tell their parent, here are reasons why others will pause before sharing their experiences:

1)  Fear of consequences: Your child’s online existence is a critical part of their social life. With all their friends online, being excluded would be devastating them. They do not want to risk you banning them from their friends and their digital lives. As parents realize, threatening to remove your teen’s device can set-off a firestorm in many homes. If you feel your son or daughter is in danger and (for their own protection) want to take their phone, they may not want to tell you things that are happening.

2)  Humiliation and embarrassment: Our teens are human and have feelings. Although some kids portray a tough persona and believe they are invincible, deep down everyone feels hurt by cruel keystrokes. Your child may fear looking stupid or weak. If the incident gets reported to their school, will they be able to face their classmates/peers? Imagine the horror of a child hearing from peers after being bullied that they somehow deserved it, brought it on themselves or should have just toughened it out rather than be a snitch. This can be devastating — especially to a teenage, but it is even more reason why parent must keep their lines of communication open.

If your teen is a victim of extortion, it could be extremely embarrassing for them to talk to you about. It’s why we must keep our lines of communication open — daily short chats about online life are just as crucial as “how was school today?” or “do you have homework?” Never doubt, their online life is just as important as offline.

3)  Fear of making it worse: We have taught our children well, so they understand that bullies are looking for attention. By reporting the incident of cyberbullying to a parent, your teen may fear it could anger the bully and make matters worse for them online. In some cases, bullies will enlist more online trolls to cyber-mob your teen. Of course, the teen’s dreaded fear is his or her parent reporting it to their school and more people knowing whereby they become a possible target in the future.

Having short talks can help your teen trust you are there for them –  you are their advocate – both offline and especially online. You do not have to be a cyber-tech expert to be a digital parent. You only have to be interested in their cyber-life.

Tip to start a short chat: Engage in conversations with your teens about social media sites – online. Yes, go online with your teen and have them explain firsthand how to use apps you want to learn about. Have them teach you — and start engaging in chats about the platforms.

It’s important to realize that if your teenager is struggling with online harassment (or offline) and not able to share this with you, hopefully they have found a friend or other trusted adult to open up with. Keeping this to themselves is not healthy emotionally. Being a victim of cyberbullying or a target of any online hate is very serious to anyone’s mental health.

Read: How Cyberbullying Impacts Your Teen’s Mental Health.

Read: How to Help My Teen Handle Cyberbullying.


If you feel your teen is suffering emotionally and you’ve exhausted your local resources, contact us to learn more about how residential treatment may be able to help your family.


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