Many things have changed since you were a child, and teens today face some difficulties that you never faced. One of the greatest challenges for parents is understanding how to teach your teen to use the internet safely.
Parents today are wrestling with all sorts of problematic situations that the internet presents. Social media platforms, like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, are often singled out, but many blogs and websites can cause your teen to question personal priorities, desires and self-image. While many of these sites can be monitored, you as a parent know it is impossible to view absolutely everything.
In addition to monitoring and setting limits on internet use, there is more you can do. You are your teen’s only parents and even though it may seem like they’re not listening to you, they do hear you. Be intentional about countering negative web influences by reminding teens of your love and commitment to them. You may have competition, but don’t underestimate your role in helping to shape their self-image. Let them know their worth and importance, not only to your family but also to the world around them.
In addition, you need to understand technology to combat its influence. Here are some things you should know:
- While many teens depend on social media to keep in touch with their friends and boost their sense of acceptance, these sites can have negative influences. Cyber bullying can take over many social networks, and it is so easy for teens to get wrapped up in the negativity, whether or not it is directed at them. Though social media may not be important to you, they are important to your teen. Create a monitoring plan to try to stay on top of the posts, and investigate if your teen seems unusually quiet or depressed.
- Social media can also create an obsession with self-promotion. Today’s teens are often seen posting “selfies” to gain attention or validation from their peers. These photos often receive a lot of comments, and while much of it is positive, some of it might not be. This is where cyber bullying can often start. Be sure to discuss with your teen the effects of cyber bullying and the importance of keeping a positive and healthy body image.
- Sexting continues to be a problem for teens. Many may feel it’s OK to send sexualized pictures to people they trust. It’s not. And with minors, it is against the law. Any image sent through email can be forwarded or posted to the internet, where it will live forever. Privates are called privates for a reason. Keep your teen safe online and teach them to value their bodies and their privacy.
- With constant access and connectivity to the internet, many teens now have an inability to be alone. The web offers great ways to stay connected, even with those who are many miles away. The downfall is that many teens become disconnected from the world around them and struggle with isolation. It can also pose a potential cyber safety threat. Teens who are always online might be more vulnerable to cyber bullying. Teens often feel that connectivity through their mobile devices or computer makes up for lack of face-to-face contact. However, this is an important time for them to begin developing interpersonal skills. Work with your teen on people skills and limit phone use during meals and family time.
- All of these issues stem from one fact: Teen are attached to their cellphones. While phones provide them with a way of keeping in contact with you, they can become major distractions. Make sure your teen is involved in activities that involve other people, such as a sport, club or part-time job. Limit phone use around family and family events.
As always, it is important to recognize what you are modeling to your teen. Are you glued to your phone and other electronic devices during family time or are you present and engaged? It will not solve all of your problems, but modeling healthy boundaries and use of technology is an important piece to remember.
Things are much different from when you were a child, but that doesn’t need to be all bad. If you are open with your teen and discuss and model online safety, with healthy, structured phone and social media practices, your teen should be able to enjoy the advantages of these mediums in a positive way.