This New Year, you can make a simple resolution that will mean a lot to your relationship with your teen or tween. Get (more) involved.
I’m sure that you’re already involved in the parenting thing – guiding homework, advising on part time jobs or extracurricular activities or going out to dinner or a movie. You can take it a step farther and get more involved in an aspect you’re your kids’ life that few parents more than superficially venture into – their online activities.
Even though many parents we talk to are concerned with what their kids are doing online, and have tried to talk about safe and responsible behavior, most fall short of actually getting involved in a meaningful way. You can do it, and all it takes is an investment of a little time. I know you’re busy, but rather than being overwhelmed by what your kids are doing on their phone or laptop, you can take the plunge.
Online gaming – You’ve probably paid attention to age ratings when selecting or approving what games your kids will play, and no doubt have issued a stern warning when you hear the in-game chat devolve into shouting or foul language. You can actually get involved in the gaming as a way to both better understand what your kids are doing, and to spend some time together. Go ahead, pick up a controller.
Social media – You and your daughter probably both have a Facebook account, but you may have noticed that she is not “there” very often. Chances are there’s a social network that she is more interested in – Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr or one of the others. Find out which it is, and what the appeal is for her. You could register your own account – not to stalk your daughter but perhaps to find some common interests. For example, if you’re both into photography, you might enjoy connecting on Instagram.
Messaging apps – I’m sure you trade text messages with your teen, but it is also likely that he and his friends use a different messaging app amongst themselves. Find out which it is and download it for yourself. If he prefers messaging on WhatsApp or Kik, he probably would welcome using it with you as well.
Wringing your hands about how much time kids spend online, or the fact that you have no idea what they’re doing there, is not productive (you can limit their online time, though). Teens spend so much time online because that’s where their friends are. It has reached critical mass and there’s no turning back now. If you make a resolution to get more involved in the platforms that your kids choose to use, you can make strides toward a closer relationship without looking like you’re stalking or spying.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.