People post content and interact with each other online for all kinds of reasons. When it comes to avoiding misunderstandings, context is the thing that matters most.
Just like people speak to and treat each other differently in different contexts, people online might post one way with their friends, and another way when their parents are watching.
To help young people navigate the online world, spend time with them in the places they spend time. Talk with them about how context changes the meaning of things. Share with your teen ways of building resilience: not assuming the worst, finding and expressing empathy, and seeing the world from someone else’s position.
Young people are especially good at using the language of the internet to express themselves; whether it’s emojis or memes or even just the difference between what it means to “like” or “heart” something. For example, it might not be obvious to all parents, but there’s a big difference between something as simple as saying “okay” and “ok.” (with a period.) You can sometimes say more with a meme, a gif reaction, or an emoji than you can with words.
All this is normal, language is always changing. But when misunderstandings happen, context is usually the culprit. Spend time with your teens talking about the different ways people can express themselves, and the different ways people are understood or misunderstood. You might be surprised to find out: you’ll learn just as much from them as they will from you!