It should come as no surprise to a parent of a teen that technology and social media are very important. Because of the rise of the smartphone, teens spend a majority of their time online, checking a variety of social media platforms, sending messages, and taking pictures. According to the Pew Research Center, 92% of teen report that they are go online at least once a day.
Parents may wonder what teens are doing when they are going online. The Pew researchers found that 71% of teens are using more than one social network site when they are getting online. The most frequently used social network sites the teens identified were Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. The study noted that middle and upper class teens spend the most time on Instagram and Snapchat. Parents who are not familiar with the different types of social media may want to educate themselves on the different platforms so that they can better understand the pros and cons of the types of sites their youth are visiting regularly. There are several good websites that parents can use to educate themselves about the types of media that teens are using.
Some suggestions for parents when it comes to monitoring your teens online are:
• Communicate Openly: ask your teen about their online presence and set limits that you are comfortable setting, but recognize that one of the things that teens do is to test boundaries. Expect that your teen will test boundaries and decide in advance how you will handle this.
• Privacy: It’s a good idea to keep computers in a public place and not allow your teen to have a computer in his/her bedroom. Another practical suggestion is to have everyone “turn in” their cell phones at night so your teens are not up all night text messaging. You may also want to consider asking your teen to share their passwords and to check the browser history on phones and computers regularly.
• Set clear boundaries: It is appropriate for a parent to set boundaries about how often a teen uses social media and/or a cell phone. Unfortunately teens frequently use their cell phones to “ignore” real life and interactions. Talk to your teen about the dangers of not being present.
• Know about the dangers of the internet: Help your teen understand the importance of not posting addresses or phone numbers online. Stay informed about the dangers associated with the internet and social media and educate your teens about those dangers.
As a parent, it’s important to educate yourself about the things that are going on with the internet and social media. If you stay on top of the trends you will be better able to protect yourself and your family.