The teenage brain is still under construction!
The self-monitoring, problem-solving and decision-making part of the brain develops last which is why your teenager may be looking for new experiences, start taking risks and make impulsive decisions.
It’s healthy for a teenager to start taking risks but it is the parental role to support a teenager during this time. This support isn’t only needed in the real world, internet safety for teens is one of the big challenges facing all families.
Technology might be an area your child knows more about than you, but the trick for you to help keep your teenager safely navigate the virtual world is that the rules are pretty much the same as the real world.
- Never post personal information; name, address, photos of you, your family or even your pets, current location, school (including school uniform), phone numbers, passwords, credit card details or anything that can identify your family and friends.
- Make sure not to leave small clues that could track you down.
- A great tip is to make sure nick names and screen names don’t match so that if your teen needs to get out of an uncomfortable online conversation, they can change their nick name and that person can’t track their account.
- Create an email or screen name that doesn’t identify you. Use a mix of numbers and letters. Make it non-gender specific.
- Consider private chat rooms for real life friends.
- Mark social media profiles as private. If an account is public strangers can copy or take screen shots of private information and images and share with the wider-world.
- Make sure you don’t let apps use their GPS technology ie go into settings and turn on ‘hide location’.
- You wouldn’t make friends with just anyone on the street, don’t accept just anyone online into your social group. Select your friends carefully. No one’s really impressed by your ‘friend’ count.
- Teach your teen that if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t and it’s always best to check with an adult. They might not know who to use the technology but they have lots of real life experience.
Dear Teen, are you sure that cute 15 year old stud1999 isn’t a creepy 40 year old flabby76? You might think it’s cool that an older guy/girl is interested in you but think about it, it’s not a compliment, it’s illegal and seriously creepy.
- Don’t share passwords with anyone except parents. Not even best-friends or boy/girlfriends.
- Devices should have locks on them so only the owner can access them.
- Don’t forget to lock phones and or a laptop if left unattended. Someone might send a message acting as you or might look at or steal personal information.
THE INTERNET IS AN ELEPHANT
- It never forgets!
- Be careful what you post. If you wouldn’t say it in real life or you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face then don’t say it online.
- If you’d be uncomfortable for your Mum to read it then it’s probably too much.
- Don’t assume a private message won’t get shared with others. That mean comment or explicit image can be very easily shared. Once you press send you’ve got no control over what happens to your message.
- If you’re in a bad mood, angry, stressed or upset, don’t post. Take a break, get a snack, call someone or get some exercise. You’ll be thinking more clearly when you’ve had some time out.
- If someone has posted ‘hilarious’ photos of you in a compromising situation…delete, delete, delete.
Dear Teen, you know how you feel every time your Dad gets out that cute photo of you dressed as a pumpkin for Halloween and shows your friends. Eugh! How embarrassing! Well that’s not even close to how you’ll feel as an adult when your online comments and photos are still online. Ah, remember that time your 16 year-old self sent your boyfriend a naked video and he put it on YouTube. It’s so cute when your potential new boss sees that!
NEVER MEET UP WITH ANYONE YOU’VE MET ONLINE…EVER
If you really think that person you’ve met online is legitimate, then you won’t mind taking your parents with you to meet them. Invite them to bring their parents as well. If they refuse, then you know they’re a creep.
- Keep your digital reputation clean.
- One image between you and a confidant can become the possession of 1000s of people, including pedophile rings.
- Images of teenagers are sold and traded online and maybe by kids at your school. People see images of you online and then ‘order’ more by getting close to people around you or send you inappropriate requests.
- If you get an inappropriate request and you send an image this will then be used to blackmail you by threatening to tell your family, friends or school. You may then receive more requests that get more and more explicit over time.
- Private pages can be hacked, or shared with others.
- You may be the kid that is involved in the trade/sale of images. Do you really want to be THAT kid who gets expelled for circulating inappropriate images and posts.
- The repercussions for all can be immense. Think social, employment, academic and even legal implications (ie the sex offenders register).
- If at any point your get yourself into a situation with explicit images, tell a trusted adult straight away. Yes, it will be a difficult conversation to start but the sooner you share it with someone you trust the sooner it will end.
Dear Teen, pornography is not real life. They’re actors creating unreal, extreme and hyper-real situations for titillation. Don’t expect your partner to recreate images, video or sex you’ve seen in a porno. Real life sex is different. If you’re curious about sex, pornography isn’t the place to learn about it.
- Parents should set rules early; take charge and be involved.
- Technology, like monitoring, can’t replace your attention.
- Remember, you’re not the only parent saying ‘no’.
- Keep an eye on social media but don’t get too involved in posting on your kid’s social media…they’ll just set up a private account away from prying eyes.
- Your kids might not tell you things, but don’t be afraid to ask.
- See if you can get involved in their online games/apps from time to time.
- Almost 1/3 teens are online between 10pm & midnight. Don’t let this be your teen.
- Keep computers and phones in communal areas of the home and not in bedrooms.
- Teach teens not to gossip or spread rumours.
- Ignore-Block-Tell is a great way to remember how to deal with online bullying.
- Ignoring takes away the bully’s power. Blocking protects the teen from the discourse. Teach your teen from a young age that they can talk to you about anything they find uncomfortable online. Call the police if things escalate.
- Remind your teen that they shouldn’t be a guilty bystander. If they know of someone who is bullying or being bullied they need to tell someone.
Dear Teen, your parents might not know their SnapChat from their DonkeyKong but they have lived a life. Common-sense is a great commodity in the online world as much as it is in the offline world. They’re not trying to control you, just guide you towards the amazing and positive world that’s out there online.
GOOD TO KNOW
- YouTube, iTunes, Netflix, Stan, PC, Macs, gaming consoles and mobile phones all have safety modes or parental controls in some form.
- Safe searches are available via Google Safe Search and Google Chrome.
- Remember game consoles can access internet.
- Did you know parental controls can be used to set time limits?
- Keep in mind that parental controls aren’t particularly successful with social media, messaging and video messaging.
Do you have some great tips that you’ve used to help your teenager navigate the minefield of the internet. I’d love you go to the comments below and let us know. Your experience might be exactly what one of us needs to hear to help us through a difficult situation.