We just returned from a week in Canada – the whole gang travelled up to kick back, relax and spend time with family.
During the drive back yesterday, I was thinking about what my kids learned while away, if anything. Sure, we spent time boating, swimming, hiking and visiting with family, but did the kids actually learn anything?
In the case of my two teenage boys, I think the answer is yes. Since they spent a significant amount of time with their cousins and family friends, there is a very good chance that they were exposed to a different internet usage pattern than what they are used to.
No doubt, their cousins who they don’t see very often are accustomed to viewing content and using websites, apps and social media networks that my kids were not familiar with. Were these sites less kid-friendly? Did they make new online “friends” who may not be who they appear to be?
Two categories of internet use are especially susceptible to changes by teens introduced to a new peer group – online video and social networks. After all, if you are a teen and your friends are avid users of, say, Facebook and Instagram, you may not have had reason to try Snapchat or start a blog on Tumblr. But then along comes someone new(ish), saying something like, “Hey, check this out. It’s cool.” A new set of confidants could usher in a new set of interests, complete with privacy and other risks previously not considered or understood.
For parents of teens or kids in general, the days following a family vacation, a trip to camp or an extended stay with relatives can be a great time to review kids’ online habits. See for yourself what has changed and reestablish some rules of the road for safe and responsible internet use. Parents who are generally aware of what teens are doing online are the first line of defense against inappropriate or risky internet use.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.