Social media and mobile technology have changed the world forever. You are the first generation of teens to have so many amazing ways to communicate with each other. Apart from text messages, messenger programs, web forums and emails you also have social networks like Facebook and Twitter (to name but two) as well as all the smartphone apps that are continually emerging.

Social media is a great way to keep in touch, have fun, post pictures from your life and generally extend the social networks you have in the real world. Of course it’s important to practise safe behaviour – don’t trust everything people say, don’t ‘friend’ everyone just to get a large number of followers, and be very careful about geotagging (location tagging to pictures and updates which can be switched off in your settings). Also while they’re fun to be on, some of the apps that allow you to be anonymous and post whatever you like are open to all kinds of abuse. If you’re going to be using them be aware that not all users have good intent.

Here are some dos and don’ts for using social media. Please take these seriously – the web is a wonderful thing, but take great care while using it! Remember:

  • The internet is forever – if you post something online you can’t take it back, and this includes sharing any personal information such as your mobile number, address or any photos of yourself.
  • Stick with friends. Adjust your privacy settings so that only your friends can see things you post on your wall and limit those who can send you messages. This is really important because otherwise anyone can take a look at your life in intimate detail without you knowing.
  • It’s OK if you friended someone because you met them in the real world, but avoid adding strangers to your Friends list because you have no way of knowing for certain who they are. The 15 year old boy you are chatting to may turn out to be someone completely different.
  • Be careful with smartphone apps like Snapchat that appear to offer ‘disposable photos’. There are lots of ways to override these apps and re-post the pictures to social networks or save them. If you’re going to send photos online then make sure you are sensible about it. Don’t send anything that could hurt you if it ended up in the wrong hands or visible for anyone to see online.
  • Pause before posting. Always take a moment to think how any post you make could affect your reputation, relationships with others or if it could get you into trouble. Facebook may be virtual but it’s based on the real world – social media is not a computer game!

Common Questions And Answers

Question – I find it easier to chat online than in person!

online chat

Help! I don’t know how to talk to real boys from school. There’s a boy I really like at the moment and we chat a lot online, but I get really tongue-tied when I see him in person. When I’m online or on instant messanger I can be fun and chatty and think of loads of things to say including witty anecdotes about what happened at school that day, but the next morning, in real life, I dry up and become really shy! Can you help?


Many people find that it’s easier to socialise online than face-to face, so you are not alone. Perhaps it’s because we have the time to compose our responses, don’t feel self-conscious in the same way, and can feel confi dent and in control of the situation. These days we rely more and more on online means of communication, but it is important not to lose sight of the ‘real’ world, too! It can be scary talking to boys you like at first, but if you have built up a friendship online then hopefully you will know some of his interests. Ask him about these and if he’s chatting it will take the emphasis off you and your shyness. A good trick to remember when talking to new people is to listen intently and focus on what they’re saying rather than what your reply is going to be. Lastly, bear in mind that the more you practise talking to boys, the easier it gets, so pluck up the courage and apply some of your online confidence to your offline socialising!

Question – How can I tell if I’m falling in love?

falling in love

How can I tell the difference between having a crush on a boy and falling in love? In the past I thought I was in love – in fact with pretty much every boy I’ve been out with – but now I’m not so sure. I’m starting to think they might have just been crushes. I started seeing a new boy recently and for the first time I think things might be serious. We spend all our time together and I can’t stop thinking about him. I don’t want to tell him that I love him in case it’s not true, but I know I want to say it. Is there any way to tell if you’re really in love or do you just have to sort of guess?


Having a crush and being in love can feel similar, but there are differences. You can have a crush on someone without meeting them, whereas love usually involves lots of personal contact. A crush is technically an infatuation – in other words it is superfi cial. Love is about caring for someone deeply and not just for your own sake but for theirs, too. In general, crushes are one-way whereas love is reciprocated. However, crushes have their uses. Some experts suggest that crushes are a way of experimenting with strong emotions – almost like a rehearsal for a real love affair. Crushes are a perfectly normal part of your emotional development. The key message is: don’t rush things with anyone at this stage – when you meet someone you love, you will know the difference.

Question – My friends take photos of themselves and share them!

taking photos

A couple of girls I know quite well at school have been taking photos of themselves and sending them to boys they like via a picture sharing app. I’ve heard that the photos are quite flirty and that the boys are sharing them with other boys, and have even posted them online. I’m sure the girls don’t know what’s going on. What should I do?


There are some picture-sharing apps that claim to self-delete the photos almost immediately. However, this doesn’t stop some users (perhaps not with good intentions in mind) from saving these pictures on their phones and then sharing them. The makers of a popular picture-sharing app called Snapchat advise that no one should use it to send suggestive or sexual images. The only way to be 100% sure that compromising photos of yourself are not being passed around by other boys at school – or being posted on the internet – is never to take them in the first place. The internet is forever! In this particular case, I suggest having a quiet word with one (or both) of the girls and telling them what you know.

Question – My friends hate my boyfriend. Should I break up with him?

boyfriend photo

I started seeing a new boy recently. He’s really good looking but he’s an ‘emo’. Most of my crowd are into hip-hop and think emo music is depressing. I don’t have a problem with his clothes or music, but my friends keep making jokes about him. I’m getting fed up. Should I break up with him just to get my friends off my back? It just doesn’t seem like it’s worth the effort if they are always going to hate him.


Being in a relationship can often disrupt your circle of friendships. But at 15 are you ready to do that? While being in a relationship doesn’t mean you need to share his fashion sense or musical tastes, it does mean that you need to stand up for him to your friends. Your friends sound quite narrow-minded and a bit unkind. If you support your friends in their prejudice then you are supporting the idea that it’s OK to discriminate against someone for the way they dress or the music they listen to. It’s your friends’ attitudes that need to change, not yours, but if you care deeply about your boyfriend you will need to start being loyal to him and support him when your friends make nasty comments. From your letter it doesn’t sound to me like you are ready to do that?