Parents – let’s say you have the perfect kid – good grades, wholesome friends, wide ranging extracurricular activities. If this is your family, you probably haven’t spent much time worrying about what your son or daughter is doing on the internet.
Even if your teen or pre teen is the perfect angel, the internet poses both risks and opportunities to get into hot water, even for the best behaved kids. I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines. Privacy settings are not the easiest things to figure out. Online photos can provide a shocking level of detail on your location. Something a teen views as sarcasm or comedy might be viewed entirely differently by someone else.
It’s never too early to start having “The Internet Talk”. The challenge is that if you start with an impassioned version of “You need to be safe online” or “You must make sure you don’t do anything online that will damage your reputation”, your teen is likely to shut down, not wanting to confirm that there is even a remote possibility that he or she is doing anything unsafe or improper.
We recommend that if you haven’t already done so, you can get the ball rolling by asking some simple questions.
What sites or apps are you using to connect with friends online? Knowing which sites and aps your teen is using is a great place to start. Is your teen using regular text messaging or an app like Kik or Snapchat? Does she use a network that is notorious for cyberbullying like Ask.fm? Questions such as this one can lead to a deeper conversation, or at least set you up to do some research.
Are you comfortable with the privacy settings on your social networks? You might get two very different answers. “Yes, my accounts are set to private” is a great answer but might not be true. “Yes, but my accounts are not set to private because if they were, my friends couldn’t fine me” presents an opportunity to discuss who she connects with, and under what conditions.
What is your strategy if you think you’re being bullied? A great way to start a conversation about cyberbullying, contemplating both the possibility that your child may be the bully or the victim, is to agree on a definition of what bullying is. Most teasing or sarcasm may not be bullying, and should be treated as such. Serious cyberbullying incidents deserve a serious response, and teens need to know that parents are willing and ready to help.
Starting the conversation about safe and responsible internet use is not a solution, it’s just a start. You have to start somewhere.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.