There are some things you should know about the realities of life online before approaching the subject of Internet safety with your teens. Otherwise, you’ll alienate them before you have a chance to convince them to evaluate their online safety habits.
Fear of online crimes grips most parents
Parents are concerned for good reason. News reports recount instances of cyberbullying, crimes committed by sexual predators, kidnapping, and identity theft. The alarming part is not these troubling reports, but that your teenager seems oblivious to any danger while spending excessive hours online.
You can no longer take the Internet away as a form of punishment
Placing the computer in a common area of the house is still a good rule to practice. But technology allows teens to access the Internet anywhere, anytime. With tablets and smartphones, your teens have more access to a global audience than ever before–all without your supervision or permission. You must change your approach, in order to be effective. A reasonable level of trust is also needed on your part, to neutralize excessive worry and stress.
The fact that you know more about life gives you the advantage
Instead of focusing on the dangers of the Internet, concentrate instead on teaching time-management. Help your teen understand how having an organized and time-managed life will benefit them. Find a way to make this concept appealing to them.
You can’t ignore the dangers altogether
The approach is the key. If you approach the subject with too much dread and danger, they’ll shut down. Engage your teens in taking personal responsibility for their online behavior. For example, teach them to think before posting, by suggesting a battery of questions:
- “Could the comment I’m about to post hurt anyone?”
- “Will I feel embarrassed if my parents or other adults read what I post on the Internet?”
- “What would I think of the person who posted what I’m about to post?”
- “Will this photo damage my reputation or have long-term repercussions on my future?”
- “Does my comment have a lesson in it that benefits the reader?”
- “Is my comment kind, or will it encourage those who read it?”
These and similar methods will work far better than the “big bad Internet” speech. You get better results when you engage teens in the lesson, by causing them to think about their role in online activity.