Focus is an important attribute of effective parents.
If you’ve spent time on parenting websites, in forums or reading magazines or newspapers, no doubt you’ve seen headlines like “The Real Risk Online for Teens”, or something similar. Whether the author’s intent is to alarm, inform or sell something, there is a certain element of shock and awe employed to get your attention. Once you start thinking about it, it can be overwhelming.
There are certainly risks associated with teens and pre teens being online and on smartphones, especially unsupervised, and we’ll be the first to tell you that parents need to be engaged in active discussions with kids about safety and acting appropriately. It is very important, but a the quote goes, “When everything is important nothing is.”
On the internet, “everything” is a very large space. The number of websites, social media platforms and apps is growing every day and will continue to do so.
You can’t monitor everything that your child is doing online, and you can’t give appropriate guidance as to every situation, bully or piece of offensive content that they might encounter. In the interest of staying sane and being a good parent, we recommend you ask yourself a simple question:
What are you worried about?
Predator Risk – This one is a doozy, especially for younger kids, since the potential downside is the greatest if your child becomes a victim.
Cyberbullying – It goes without saying that no parent wants his or her child involved in cyberbullying, either as the perpetrator or the victim.
Adult Content – How strongly do you feel about pornography, coarse language, gore, drugs and alcohol references, racism or other offensive content?
Reputation Risk – People of influence will probably look at your child’s internet profile and past activity at some point – a college admissions officer, prospective employer or even the police. How concerned are you about what they might find?
Identity Theft – This is internet 101 – protecting your personal information.
Antisocial Behavior – There is a lot of grey area here. You need to balance the idea that kids and teens at least in part grow and mature by learning and being exposed to new things with keeping them safe. What happens when those new things are racist, sexist, a cult, or even illegal?
We understand that we aren’t offering any solutions here, but there are plenty of resources on our website and online that can give you great ideas about how to evaluate and deal with specific risks. An important part of the overwhelming concept of keeping your child or teen safe online is figuring out which risk you’re going to educate about and defend against first. Get started, and take it from there.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.