If you have a teenager in your life, there is an excellent chance they are using technology to access social media and online resources. A recent Pew Research Report found that 95% of teens are “online.” Having a connected device at home for learning can be a great benefit. However, with this power comes great responsibility, and it is important for parents to do their part to ensure kids make good choices online.
- Play a role in your student’s online life. If your student has a Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter page, then so should you. Ask them to “friend you.” Just as you are involved in shaping your child in the real world, you also need to help them form their digital image.
- Keep track of your child’s internet and cell phone (texting) history. Many parents believe this is a violation of privacy, but kids are more likely to text or post things inappropriate if they don’t believe an adult will find out. All major phone carriers provide a way for parents to monitor their kid’s devices. Just make sure to be honest with your student before you hand them the phone for the first time so they know they won’t be surprised if/when the time comes for a conversation about their use.
- Have frequent conversations with your student about the dangers of talking with strangers online. Cyber/sexual predators are better at their craft today than at any other point in history. They are using the internet to collaborate, share tips, and pictures/videos of victims. In many cases, a cyber predator will attain a single inappropriate picture of a victim by acting as a peer online. The predator will then threaten to reveal the picture to the victim’s parents, friends, or school mates if they don’t do exactly what they request.
- When it comes to cyberbullying, share possible strategies instead of just advice. Cyberbullying is defined as willful and repeated harm inflicted through the medium of electronic text. If your student is getting bullied online, they are more likely to tell an online friend that they are being bullied. As a parent you should: know your child’s online friends, expect no information, watch for mood changes (difficult with teenagers), not step in and do something without your child’s permission, make a plan for what to do if/when bullying happens, and use the school as your ally.
- Teach your student to be skeptical of internet information. Most internet sites tend to look the same - professional and informative. Kids need to question the facts on internet sites and not take them as factual. Anyone online can pose as a doctor and give dangerous advice. Encourage your students to research on sites with a .org or .edu, and check the validity of information by checking facts on multiple sites.
- Help your student make healthy decisions regarding screen time. The US Department of Health and Human Services released a report recommending no more than two hours of screen time for kids aged 12-15. Too much time in front of computers, television, and phones can result in issues with weight, anxiety, and mood. Make a plan with your student about times when devices are not to be used (dinner, bedtime, etc.) and make sure you model these choices as well.