The generation of digital downloads, social media and youtubers. Its evolving so quickly parents can have trouble keeping up with their kids. I’m introducing some ideas that I hope become a trending idea for parents and teens. Let’s work together with our teens to keep them safe, make positive digital decisions, and overall maintain healthy emotional and social behaviors in the age of the internet.
I hope this trends:
Think about it, think SAFE!
Who will See it?
Ask your teens and your kids, is it okay with me if my teacher sees this, my grandma, my aunt, my parent? We think we have control with privacy settings, but do we? I recently heard on the radio this morning that Alexa, an amazon virtual assistant that is nearly in half of American homes is keeping track of what we say. Scary, right? Alexa is hearing what you say in the confines of your home. Did you know that? So, who is seeing what you are posting and are you OKAY with that?
Who will have Access to it?
This falls in line with who will see it, but who does have access to it? Potential predators? Are they using this information that you post online to figure out where you are during your Disneyland field trip with your school for orchestra? Are they using the data from the picture you post right at this moment to find your location, your home address? After consulting with a metro detective, I learned that pretty much anyone, specifically predators can find out where you are at any time that you post using the location services on your iPhone. This is the world we live in. Everyone can see it; everyone can probably access it.
Will this impact my Future?
This is a hard one to teach teens. Their brains are not quite equipped to see future in the same light as parents. Literally, their brain is going through a “pruning process,” new neuron pathways are being developed and repaved frequently throughout the period of adolescence so telling kids that their grandkids will see the provocative picture they posted or that the college admissions staff are researching them might not mean a lot now. Teens are way more focused on today and tomorrow, not next month or next year so look at how posting impacts their immediate future. Ideally, they can try to brainstorm how social media and what they post on the internet impacts their future for tomorrow, next month and next year. This is a great time to try to start up honest communication about the internet and their perceptions. Be open and actively listen. Try not to judge and support them in figuring out what is important to them and their future.
Who am I really Exchanging information with?
These all really point to one thing, is the internet a safe place to meet people, interact with, express yourself as a teen or child? Who are you really giving your information to? Your location? Information about your school, work and friends? This exchange is happening all the time, algorithms are being created by servers, search optimization is feeding you information as well as information to companies and people, but what is real? What is SAFE? These four things: Who will see this? Who will have access to this? What does posting this mean for my future? Who are you really exchanging information with? These thoughts are important to have each and every time before you post online, before you do anything digital.
So yes, the point of me writing this is to inform you and your teen that you need to be on alert, awareness is key. This leads me to the next step, just as important as the first one. Communication. Talk about the different social media accounts, have access to them, parents be aware of finstagram (click on link for description) and talk to your kids about why it is important to not create fake accounts. Talk about the dangers of the internet and the implications of posting anything online. Talk to your kids about what they put out there online and what that means to other people. Talk to them about cyberbullying and sexting, a related topic but each for a blog of their own! Set up a “digital decision making” or “internet wellness contract” with your child (click on examples below). I use those terms to promote a positive working relationship that you and your teen should have with the internet and this digital age we live in.
The internet is here to stay and it is a part of our lives. I am writing a blog right now that you are reading online. Seeing and accessing all of this information is a wonderful thing. Just like everything in life, we need balance. As parents we need to balance giving our children independence out there in the world and this includes the digital world. They are going to make decisions, we just want those decisions to be informed with some monitoring and guidance from trusted adults, particularly on the internet.
Children need to be monitored, ideally children under the age of 12 should be in a trusted adult’s presence while engaging online at all times, whether watching their favorite youtuber or Peppa the Pig. Children under 12 probably don’t need a social media account, maybe you can share a family one if they would like to stay in contact with cousins that live out of town etc. Again, this is just a recommendation each family may have a different set of beliefs with this, but the point here is that whether the child is 10 or 12, monitoring is essential.
Your “teenager” emerges at 13, what does this mean for the digital contract? Communication needs to take the driver seat. Also, is your 13-year-old mature enough? This isn’t a numbers game or an absolute rule that at 13 they get to do x, y, and x. Does your 13-year-old have an awareness of consequences? Can they think ahead about how their behaviors impact their future? Are they getting grades based on their true potential and effort? (This demonstrates understanding of cause and effect and taking responsibility) Do they follow your house rules? Have they demonstrated making good decisions to YOU? If you are nodding your head yes, maybe they are ready for their own social media account? Maybe they can have their iPhone in their room upstairs with them until bedtime, maybe they can take the laptop up with them to do their homework or search online? Again, these things can happen when you are ready and they have demonstrated maturity. Remember the key I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph, communication. Now, communication increases with this new found freedom your mature 13-year-old has demonstrated, you have administrative access to their social media accounts, you discuss fake social media accounts and the consequences of having one.
Next up – no iPhone, iPad, laptop whatever in their room at night after bedtime. As a therapist and parent, I can tell you that a healthy sleep schedule is one of the most important attributes to emotional health, not to mention physical health as well. Parents, are you going on social media to scroll before bed or scouring Pinterest at night? Let’s model better digital decision making to our kids. There is no reason to be scrolling once you are in your PJ’s and placing your head on the pillow. Ideally, any child in your home attending preschool up to 12th grade does not need their iPhone at night. I can almost faintly hear the moaning and frustrated squeals from your teenager through the speakers on my computer but I can tell you that there is no reason for them to have their phones every night. I can just hear it – “I have to text my friend about the homework” “We are facetiming to study together.” Well I’m sure that some teens truly will be in these predicaments. So, what do we do as parents? These times (better be on rare occasion) will call for me staying up and checking in on them a couple times. Eventually shutting it down so that they can in fact get that super important sleep I mentioned above. Maybe at some point I will be able to trust my kids with the occasional instance of keeping their phone, maybe not. To sum it up, awareness, communication, education and research are important. And when in doubt, consult a professional. Talk to your child’s pediatrician about their thoughts, consult with a therapist or take to the internet and refer to credible sources for suggestions as we navigate internet wellness for this next generation.