The Goal: Protect Through Monitoring, Conversation,
Training, and Intervention (When Needed)
If you’re the parent of a teenager, you know how immersed they are in the digital world. There’s just no going back. Chances are, your teen has had their own phone and social media accounts for a few years now. You might feel like a part-time FBI agent with all the stalking you’re doing to make sure your kids are behaving right online, and if so, you’re unfortunately in the minority.
According to our friends at Above The Fray, this is what teens have to say about their parents’ role in their online lives.
70% of teens say that parents do not monitor their social media use or online gaming. While some may argue teens have a right to privacy and do not need monitoring, we would have to strongly disagree.
Wisdom isn’t learned “in private.” Wisdom is learned through observation, leaders, training, learning from mistakes, conversation, and consequences. The “digital footprint” being created for our teenagers will follow them for the rest of their lives, and so learning how to be wise digital citizens will impact their future in ways we as adults have not had to experience. I don’t know about you, but I’m really thankful my middle-school mistakes have faded quietly into the taped boxes in my attic. Kids these days don’t have that luxury.
How do we train our kids for cyber wisdom in this day and age?
If your teen has nothing to hide, then it shouldn’t be a big deal if you know where they’re going online and who they’re talking to. This is not an expectation for them to be perfect. Quite the contrary—it’s an opportunity to learn where they are really vulnerable. It’s an opportunity for training when you notice something that they may not realize could lead to a dangerous situation. There are plenty of great monitoring software companies out there, and many have free trials. To learn more, go to our ALLIES page. Also check our MESSAGING ACRONYMS page to get familiar with what nefarious communications to watch out for in your teen’s messages.
It does no good to learn what good and bad decisions your kids are making online if you’re not going to talk about them. Set a time to get together outside of a heated I can’t believe you looked at that online situation. When you have a standing time on the calendar, it helps you bring things up that need to be addressed while the defenses are low. Remember, these are the last few years you have to intentionally guide your child in their choices online. Once they’re out from under your watchful gaze, they will be making these choices on their own. Make these years count!
As you entrust your teenager with technology, it’s a good idea to make your expectations really clear—in writing. Contracts are part of adult life, so creating one that lays out what they can and can’t do with their devices, along with consequences, is great training for the real world. This also reminds them that you are in charge of the technology and their access to it. Do they know what it will cost them if they overstep your boundaries?
If your teenager has wandered into dangerous territory online, chances are you’ve already seen the very real damage that comes with it. You might not know what to do first, but you know you need to do something. If your son or daughter truly wants help, your efforts to find that help will be much more fruitful. Counseling is a great first step to consider. Also, if you have a pastor, leader, or mentor in your life who can offer wisdom and emotional support to your family, this will be a tremendous help. There are great resources available to your teenager that can give him or her a road map out of addictive sexual behaviors including recovery apps, and you would be wise to get your hands on some quickly. Check out our ALLIES page for more information on helpful resources.