“House Rules” for Teens in Cyberspace
Fifteen years ago my husband and I were impatiently waiting for the birth of our first child. When she was finally born and handed to me I, like all mothers, swore to protect my precious little package from the evils of the world. Only twelve months and twelve days later I was back in the delivery room having my second little girl, and again I was swearing my aligience to the little bundle.
At the time I had no idea how difficult that was going to be when all that the world has to offer, including the bad would be available in my own home on the electronics I have purchased for my family.
As a middle school and high school teacher, then as a parent I have read my share of cyber danger articles and the comments that go along with them. There are many people who surpisingly to me, see a child’s privacy as more important than their safety. I think part of this is because we all still have this feeling of safety in our own homes. I am here to tell you we need to wake up, because the danger is in our living rooms and we have brought it there.
I am certain most of us would not drop our young teens off in New York city on a Saturday night and drive off leaving them alone to fend for themselves, but we will easily give them a laptop, tablet, cell phone, or whatever the latest thing is and walk away letting them at it. If you are a nervous nelly you probably turn on the filters, or even block some known dangerous sites, but is that really enough?
I definitely suggest doing whatever you are doing now. Keep the filters on and block those known sites. In addition I would suggest you look into software programs that will track what your teen is doing online. Along with this type of protection, you can also get similar technology on your child’s cell phone if they have one. My phone carrier allows me to control when my children’s phones are turned on so I can program them to be off during school hours or after a certain time at night. I can also allow what they are allowed to send and receive for media. In addition I can control the phone numbers that the phone will block. Some software will even send you a transcript of all texts and media sent and received from their phone.
I know that my teens need privacy, but I do not allow them to have a second secret life on the internet. We no longer allow our daughters to have phones because we as parents of children who by nature of their teen brains, do not yet have the cerebral ability to think ahead of their choices. I do not want to know all their secrets, but I do need to know they are safe. I would never use the information I have against them, or embarrass them with it, but they do know I am as much involved in their online life as I am in their real life, so the same “house rules” apply there as well.
Why am I even writing about this, you might ask. Why are we so protective? We have had the danger I speak of in my living room. My daughter who, like many teen girls has self-esteem issues because of a bullying issue when she was younger just wants to be accepted and liked which makes her a target. I will simply say our experience has shown us that no matter how concerned or on top of things we thought we were, the danger was still very real.
Our computer is still in the living room, but it is only used when one of us is in the room to monitor. All the electronics are password protected and those passwords are changed on a regular basis so I know when the girls are on them because I have to put in the password. Also, all the mobile devices are charged at a docking station in my bedroom overnight.
Many of you might be saying I am being too protective and need to lighten up. Many of you might be saying this would never be my child, they would know better, but please keep in mind that more than 80% of teens 12 -18 have sexted in the past year. I will admit that I was one of those parents who said, not my child. My daughter would never do something like that, but I was wrong. I do hope and pray every day that no family ever go through this, but if you do I want people out there to know they are not alone and it does happen to those kids next door. What do you do to deal with the technology issues in your home? We could all use new ideas!