A Parent's Approach To
Internet Safety For Teens
Ok parents. Internet safety for teens can be a tricky subject because… well, you’re talking to teenagers. Let’s face it – they think they know everything.
But that is just what gets them into trouble.
Internet Safety Issues
The web is a huge part of our teenagers’ lives. Nearly all of them are online. Over half of them use social networking sites and a good chunk make their own stuff to post online (websites, photos, videos, etc).
All the while, a third of our teens are getting unwanted sexual exposure. A third to almost one half of our kids are giving out too much personal information.
What do we do? Do we panic? Do we take away the computer?
Of course not. We just need to practice a little internet safety for teens.
Just make sure your kids aren’t in that third giving out names, numbers and birth dates. If your kid is the 1 out of 7 getting sexually solicited, you need to make sure she tells you.
Teens & Privacy
Most teens are doing pretty good about restricting access to their profiles or blogs – which is great!
But don't be decieved!
Just because they use privacy settings doesn’t mean their info is 100% safe. Kids should never post personal information online. Why?
Surprisingly, it’s not because of internet pedophiles.
It is because of fraud, hackers, spammers and identity thieves. Stolen IDs are sold all over the world. And if your teen has all her information up on a private blog, someone still might leak it.
So use privacy settings, but realize it's like locking your door. It helps for sure, but it doesn't guarantee your house won't get robbed.
Teens & Tattling
Here's another problem facing internet safety for teens.
Even though unwanted sexual exposure is increasing, the numbers of official reports are dropping. Less than a third of teens report incidents to parents. Even less report to authorities.
Why aren’t kids telling? Put yourself in your kid’s shoes.
First, realize that teens can instigate inappropriate behavior out of naivety. “Everybody talks like that. What’s the big deal?”
Second, think of the consequences of telling.
Even when kids know they aren’t at fault, they are afraid of being blamed. Will you take the computer away? Will their “friends” get in trouble?
This is why you need to set up rules as a family. Make rewards and punishments for online behavior – then follow through.
If the punishment is not too harsh, they’ll probably come to you. If you reward them for telling, you are in business!
Protecting Your Child
Talking about internet safety for teens with them (not just at them) is half the battle.
The other half is getting kids to follow the rules.
Some kids won’t follow the rules just because "rules" are for little goody-two-shoes. Some feel trapped, or tied down by their parents. Others are just curious what will happen… even when you tell them exactly what will happen!
That’s just how some kids are.
But don't worry about that until you know what your kid is doing online - which means you have to do your homework.
1. Check the browsing history after your child’s turn on the computer. If you find pornography, “adult content” sites, or other smut, it’s probably time to talk again with your child.
2. Look at their chats. “Friend” your kids on Facebook, Myspace, and all those other social networking sites. Be sure you can see what they’re doing.
3. Be aware that kids can be sneaky.
“POS” and “P911” are two common phrases kids use in chat rooms. They mean – “Parent Alert! My folks are reading what you’re writing. So behave until I let you know otherwise.”
4. Look for signs of pedophilic activity, which you can
read about in this article.
How I react could make my child not want to tell. It’s important to know how to talk about internet safety for teens so your kids feel they can come to you.
If you only chastise and lecture them, they will go behind your back.
Don’t talk at them. Let them talk at you.
Once they know that their opinion matters to you, they’ll open up… and probably listen up.
And when you know their reasoning, you can protect your children from their own inexperience. Then you can take the appropriate action.
Sometimes our kids think we are playing on a different team. It’s Us vs Them.
But that’s not how it should be.
Like playing on a football team... when a teammate runs the wrong way with the ball, you have to stop them from making a touchdown for the other team.
They might not realize they are running wrong way, and you might have to tackle them. But they are still your teammate.
Love them despite their mistakes.
When they come to you with a problem, keep the conversation calm. Talk about what happened.
And thank them for coming to you. That’s not always an easy thing to do.
How To Handle A Situation
In most cases, offenses should go to the police. Print off the offensive chat and be prepared to go on the record.
If it’s just one friend making stupid remarks to another, your teen should tell her friends to knock it off… and probably mention the results of posting that kind of stuff. People go to prison for things they say online.
It’s real. Kids have to understand that.
If your child is the one offending, help them understand what they are doing. Legally, they could be putting themselves and others in harms way.
You don’t have to drag it out, but make sure they know it’s serious.
It’s called sexual harassment. It’s called child pornography. It could mean a criminal record - a petty offense or even a felony.
What’s online stays online - forever!
Tell your kids that once you send something out, you lose control of it. "Would you be ashamed if it got out? Would you be in trouble? If so, don't put it online!"
When it comes to internet safety for teens, I give this rule of thumb: Take a second to think. Think before you chat. Think before you post.
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