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A Tip for Teens to Prevent Online TMI

A Tip for Teens to Prevent Online TMIWe all know how easy it is to commit a comment of passion online. That is, it’s all too easy to post something on the Internet that you might late regret — something that might be too much information (TMI) for not only strangers, acquaintances and co-workers, but even friends and family.

And, we hear it all the time, once it’s out there, it’s out there forever. (No pressure, right?)

No group is guiltier of the passionate post than teens, especially when it comes to social media sites like Facebook.

So it was great to see a tip on the American Psychiatric Association’s blog, Healthy Minds, Healthy Lives, to help teens curtail their over-sharing. In this post, Tristan Gorrindo, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, offers a quick tool for teens to think before they press publish.

By the way, I think this tip isn’t just relevant for teens; it’s valuable for adults, too, whether you’re blogging, tweeting or leaving a comment on another website. Regardless of age, we’re all susceptible to making quick decisions and letting our emotions do the talking. We all make mistakes.

Specifically, Gorrindo teaches teens to get into “the habit [of] slowing down the entire process of posting” with a technique called WAIT. This helps teens figure out whether their post is appropriate. Plus, as Gorrindo says, this technique “provides clinicians and parents with a structured conversation tool to engage teens in discussions about what they are posting online.”

As a reminder, teens can write the acronym down on a Post-It and paste it to their computers.

  • W is for Wide Audience. Here, teens can ask themselves whether they’d say what they’re about to post in front of a large audience, such as a school assembly. Gorrindo writes: “If a teenage boy, for example, has 800 friends on Facebook, it is then helpful for have him visualize standing in from of 800 peers at a school assembly reading his Facebook posting aloud. Still sound like a good idea?”
  • A is for Affect. Your mood can easily affect what you say and, of course, how you say it. For instance, if you’re pissed off, the last thing you’ll be is diplomatic — or, possibly, even rational. Teens are certainly no different. Gorrindo suggests teens simply ask themselves “Am I in a good emotional place right now?”
  • I is for Intent. This gets at whether the comment will be misunderstood. While this is a great way to have teens step outside of themselves and take on another perspective, it can be tricky. Almost any comment can be misconstrued very easily. Still, it’s important to consider how our words may affect others.
  • T is for Today. How many times have you heard the advice to wait a day before you make a big purchase or send your boss a passive-aggressive email? This is similar. Teens can ask themselves whether their message is pressing and has to go out today. Waiting a day helps any hot emotions cool down and also puts things into perspective.

Next time you’re texting or sharing on Facebook, try out WAIT and let us know how it works (or didn’t work) for you.

A Tip for Teens to Prevent Online TMI

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). A Tip for Teens to Prevent Online TMI. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 8 Sep 2011)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.