Heads Up to Parents

Enforcing boundaries and having age-appropriate open discussions about your child’s online activities will help them to learn the benefits as well as understand the dangers of the internet. It is important to begin these conversations at an early age but talking with them is definitely not enough. In order to protect them from the risks that they may not be able to see, and to help them manage dangerous situations online, as parents, you will need to know exactly what is happening in their digital environment.

As much as teens dislike boundaries, it is important to remind them that boundaries also bring freedom. They provide a clear framework for what is expected and are used to teach and guide behavior. Boundaries tell them where they are free to explore and if set effectively, can prevent catastrophic, irreversible consequences that can negatively affect your child’s future.

The question most parents ask is how to set boundaries and limits in cyberspace.

A recent survey by Influence Central revealed that kids are getting their first smartphones at 10.4 years old and their first social media accounts at 11.4 years old. Parental supervision in cyberspace is an absolute must.

It is necessary for you to know each app they use as well as the usernames and passwords associated with each account. It’s not enough to be your teen’s friend or to follow them. For the safety and protection of your teen, every parent should have open access to their teen’s social media, messaging apps, pictures and any other online information.  

Since social media is a public forum, you are not invading your teens privacy, this is smart parenting. If your teen is unwilling to give you their password, obviously they should not be allowed to use that social media or messaging app.

Setting up your smartphone agreement is easiest when you are giving your child their first device, if presented as part of the deal, they will have the opportunity to earn freedom as they demonstrate safe and responsible online behavior. Let them know that a parental monitoring software is non-negotiable, that your primary job is to ensure your child’s safety, and even though you will have access to what they are doing online, that doesn’t mean you will spend all of your time looking at their digital life. Simply knowing you might be checking will encourage your child to think before they post. The much needed “pause button” in the highly emotional world of pre-adolescence and adolescence.

If you have an older child who has recently been caught sexting, using drugs, bullying or you have other reasons for concern, setting up a parental monitoring application is a must do.

Again, explain the reasons to your teenager, let them know that their behavior is cause for alarm and that your most important job as a parent is to keep them safe.

THIS MEANS THAT YOU WILL DO EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING TO MAKE SURE THEY STAY ON OR GET BACK ON THE RIGHT TRACK.  

Present it with clear expectations about desired behavior and clear consequences if the negative behavior continues. Most importantly, let your teen know that they don’t have to like or understand everything you do, but sometimes, around some life issues, they are simply going to have to trust that as their parent, you might just know a little more than they do.

Remember, your primary job is to keep your preteen and teen safe, to see the bus before it hits them, and to do this, you need to balance age appropriate freedom with enough parental oversight. You simply can’t do that if you don’t know what is going on in your child’s cyber world.