A lot of schools are using virtual learning this school year – either full time or in a hybrid model. Regardless, it’s important to remember protect our tweens and teens online is. Here are some things to remember.
1. Use parental control software
Using parental control software automatically levels the playing field for you, the parent. The latest routers can be set up with hours of availability assigned to users. Parental controls can be enabled through your home network setup, as well as the software browsers. As Traci Little mentioned in her column, NetNanny is one of the most highly-ranked parental control programs. NetNanny filters out the harmful content and other dangers of the internet and keeps illicit images from appearing on your computer.
2. Know the sites your child is visiting
Talk with your teen or tween about the sites that they are using. Discuss the reasons your child needs to use the internet. And remind your children that using the internet is a privilege, not a right. Be sure your child understands that you will be able to look at their internet browsing log and see the sites they visited.
3. Establish family internet rules
Every family will have unique opinions as to what is allowed for family internet usage. The issue that can quickly become dangerous is when the rules are assumed. Take the time to talk about your family’s internet rules. You may even want to post the rules near the computer for the visual reminder.
4. Set social media etiquette guidelines
A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 22% of teenagers log onto their favorite social media sites more than 10 times a day. And 75% of teens own cell phones.
Some of the risks involved in teens’ social media usage include:
- Exposure to inappropriate content
- Depression because of “unfriending” or not being “liked”
As prevalent as the use of social media is for tweens and teens, discussing social etiquette is a must. Recognizing the need for manners online is just the beginning. Talk with your teens and tweens and discourage unkindness, gossip, and any social media activity that might be untrue, hurtful, or embarrassing to themselves or someone else.
5. Be a part of your teen’s social media network
No matter the network or social media medium, the best way to stay real about your tween or teen’s social media activity is to be a part of it. Interact as a family and treat open conversation for what it is. There are also parental monitoring services for social media. NetNanny recently launched a new service called NetNanny Social to monitor the social networks kids use, regardless of which device the child uses to access the Internet (3G/4G, Wi-Fi, home network, or hotspot).
Make sure you stay informed and engaged with your teens and tweens on social media and know what platforms they are using. Find options that work well for your family and implement them. Be an active part of your child’s social media networking and know who and where they spend social media time.
6. Understand social media network privacy settings
You and your tween or teen should set the privacy settings on accounts together and talk about the dangers of internet strangers. Also, remind your tween that there’s no such thing as privacy online—everything they do on the Internet or a mobile device, such as an email, text, or IM leaves a digital footprint. Their activity now could be seen by college admissions officers or future employers.
7. Don’t forget about cell phones
My friend’s neighbors are a Christian family who sends their kids to private Christian schools. They thought they had it all covered and were protecting their tweens with parental control software on their home computers and WiFi. But they completely forgot about the cell phones!
If your your teen or tween has a cell phone, know that there are plenty of programs where you can monitor their activity. Some programs watch all incoming and outgoing calls, text messages, e-mails, and Web browsing history. You can even set up certain phone numbers to block so your child cannot text, e-mail or call that person.
8. Discuss the importance of making wise, God-honoring choices
No matter what, monitoring services should not replace talking with your tween or tween about making wise, God-honoring choices. Deleting a status or tweet or update should not be the standard protocol for managing one’s online reputation. Talk to them about setting a thought pattern of quick questions to ask themselves before they post.
- Are you interacting with others in a God-honoring manner?
- How are you using social media for good?
- Are you spending more time and effort building a virtual life – instead of a real life?
To prompt further family discussions about online usage and social media, check out this list of 14 questions to ask your child, teen, or tween.
For a great read to help inspire your tweens to stick up for their friends, especially when they’re being attacked, check out The Truth Runner, by Jerel Law in the “Sons of Angeles: Jonah Stone” series for middle readers (ages 8-12). In this fourth book in the series, Jonah can still see fallen angels—and the evil they’re doing. When Jonah realizes the Fallen are attacking his friends without their knowledge, he is faced with a choice: continue to ignore it and forge his own path, or remember who he really is and fight for his friends.