When you have a teenager, having a conversation with them isn’t always easy, especially when the conversation is on a serious topic like online safety. Yet more than 92% of teens are online, so it’s time to find out what your teen does know about online safety, and then discuss what they should know. With these four tips, learning about online safety can be a positive experience that leaves you feeling reassured about parenting today's teens.
1. Parenting Today's Teens: Timing Is Everything
When it comes to talking to your teens about online safety, you want their undivided attention. Your teen is busy navigating school, activities, a social life and hormones, so you can see how having a meaningful conversation about anything can be a challenge.
But you know your kids better than anyone, so find a time when they are most likely to be open with you. Maybe it’s a late-night chat after they’ve returned from their evening activities when all is calm and relaxed around the house. Maybe it’s setting up a “date” night, where you and your child go out to dinner and share a dessert over good conversation. No matter when you choose, tune out the distractions! Put the phones away and give your undivided attention, too.
2. Remind Them the Internet Is Forever
There’s an old adage that says, “You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequences of your choice.” The privilege of using the Internet comes with great responsibility. Make sure your teen understands that once a comment, text, or photo is shared, it can’t be undone. Plus, the internet provides a cloak of anonymity that makes it easy for anyone to share damaging content, so it’s best for kids not to let anything that could be used against them to be created in the first place.
Consider making a list of what might not be appropriate to share. Would your teen be okay with their sibling, grandparents, teachers, and coaches seeing what they posted or shared? How about a college admissions officer or future employer? If there is ever any doubt, it’s best to err on the side of caution.
3. Talk… and Listen, Too
Sometimes, in our quest to be great parents, we become so consumed with driving the message home that we forget to sit back and listen. It’s not a dialogue if two people aren’t involved, and a beneficial conversation requires mutual respect and honesty. Take time to listen and understand what your child already knows about staying safe on the internet. You might pleasantly surprised by the intelligent and insightful teen you are raising.
If you find yourself struggling to get more than a “yes” or “no” answer, consider asking open-ended questions like, “How’s school going these days?” or “What do you think cyberbullying is?” Sometimes a little prompting is all it takes to start the conversation.
4. Put a Plan in Place
You’ve had a great conversation with your teen about online safety, but something still gives you pause. While you may feel confident about your teen’s choices and decisions, you can’t control what others do. You could read all of your teen’s texts and social media interactions, but that’s not only time consuming; it may also undo a lot of the trust and goodwill that you’ve just established. So what do you do?
Create an action plan with your teen that addresses any limits to how they spend their time online, how you will keep up with their activities, etc. Some parents find that making a “technology contract” with their teen, which outlines your agreed upon plan of action, is a good way to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Bark is also an essential part of parenting today's teens. At today to help keep your kids safer online and in real life!