There are so many ways for today’s teens to interact with the world wide web. As parents, we want to make sure they are being safe online, without going overboard.
Heavy surveillance of your teen’s social media channels can backfire. The more you push to know what they’re doing online, the more defiant they may feel and the more effort they’ll put into keeping their communications secret. With that in mind, you need to navigate between keeping tabs on your teen and trusting them to make smart decisions online.
To Friend, or Not to Friend?
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A mature teenager won’t feel like it’s “uncool” to have their parents as friends on social media. But if your teen is like most, they’re worried about being embarrassed, or are craving some privacy from their family. As such, they may not want their parents nosing in on their many profiles.
Send the request if you want to interact with your teen online over a certain platform, but if they sense it’s because you don’t trust them, that might not go over well. Explain to your teen why you want to friend them and that many other parents and their children have already done so.
Platforms That Teens Are Using
Teens these days are using different apps and platforms that their parents generally haven’t adopted. The older generation may have wholeheartedly embraced Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but their children are using apps they might be less familiar with. These include Snapchat, a messaging app where photos and messages disappear right after being received; WhatsApp, another messaging app that works across different operating systems; Tinder or Happn, location-based dating apps; or Periscope, an app for live video streaming.
There are certain things you can do to rein in your teen’s usage. You can block inappropriate sites on their computer, or on a greater scale, limit or cut off their data and wifi privileges.
Education Over Surveillance
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Educate your teen to be a smart and safe internet user. There are many potentially harmful aspects of the internet that your teen should be aware of. Teaching them about cyberbullying, sexting, privacy settings and the implications of what they share is imperative to making your child a responsible social media consumer.
Strangers on the internet are another source of concern. Make sure your child knows that anyone could be on the other side of that screen, and they may not be who they say they are. If your teen gets hooked into some questionable chatrooms, put a block on those sites and explain why you are doing it.
When to Intervene
There are times when a parent needs to intervene beyond the above recommendations. Step in if you feel there is a legitimate cause for concern and if your teen refuses to address your concerns.
If you’re concerned that they’re posting too much personal information online, see how much information is freely available through a quick search of their various social media platforms. If you can easily tell their full name, age, address, or where they go to school, then explain to them how this puts them at risk and have them alter their privacy settings.
No one can oversee every moment of their teen’s internet usage. They have access on their various devices, at school and at friends’ houses. Because of this, it falls on you to ensure that your teen understands how to responsibly use social media so that they can stay safe while they surf.
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