Many children and teens today don’t know a life without technology, and for those of us who can remember a time without Facebook, Instagram, and Google in our pockets, that idea may seem bizarre. Lots of parents get into a battle with their teen about how much they’re on their cell phones, iPads, laptops, etc. but the reality is, the internet and social media are part of their culture and in many cases, it’s even necessary for things like schoolwork and maintaining relationships. But just because they grew up with it, doesn’t mean teens know how to be safe online and that’s where they could use some help from parents.
Internet safety is something that is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society, and for good reason. Here are a few ways you can help ensure your teen is being safe online:
1. Keep internet connected devices in a public area — that includes laptops, desktops, and even Playstations or Xboxes. Keeping them within sight and earshot helps ensure you can check in at any point.
2. Establish time limits and time restrictions, i.e. no cell phone between 10pm and 7am, only 2 hours of media use per day, etc. These restrictions may be tricky when homework involves being online, but having some boundaries helps ensure they aren’t spending too much time online and can promote better sleep.
3. Check privacy settings. Help put the appropriate privacy settings in place and explain to your teen their importance in keeping them safe.
4. Be nice. Remind them that just because they can’t physically see the person on the other side of the screen, doesn’t mean it’s not a real person with real feelings. Cyberbullying is highly prevalent but it doesn’t need to be.
5. TALK. Talk with your child about the importance of being safe online and the permanency of the internet. What they put out there stays out there and unfortunately, there are people in the world who will use that information against them. Provide them with an open door to come to you with any concerns or questions they may have and keep the conversation going. Ask questions about the apps they use and research them if it’s not one you’re familiar with.
Whether or not we agree with it, our society is changing and cell phones and social media are fundamental aspects of many teenagers lives. It may be scary, but it can be safe if they’re given the right help, information, and resources.
Written by Elise Browne, MS
References: Wither, David. Today Parenting Team. (2017. July 9) 10 Social Media Tips All Parents Should Teach Their Children. http://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/10-social-media-tips-all-parents-should-teach-their-children
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