A parent’s role has commonly been to guide their child from a place of similar position and experience, but today’s parents are swimming in unchartered waters. Today's technology and, in particular, social media that occupies a huge portion of children and teenagers’ lives is unprecedented. As youth decrease face-to-face interactions in favor of “cyber-connections”, what is socially acceptable to say or do has drastically changed.
Cyberbullying and online harassment, sending nude selfies, watching performance crime, and access to many types of pornography are just a few examples of this increased acceptance. As a result, parents are finding themselves helping their children pick up the pieces of a poor decision rather than preventing that decision from being made in the first place. Prohibiting a young person from using social media can create a barrier between child and parent. So, what can be done? Well, the answer takes us back to the initial cause of the problem: communication. Lack of communication factors into the problem, and increased communication can be part of the solution.
Face-to-face conversations and engaging in open discussions with your child have never been more important. Teaching your child the art of in-person communication, as it is a dying art form, will model healthy relationships and set clear expectations and boundaries. Here are some cyber safety tips you and your child can talk about together:
- Explore the technology. Talk with your child about rules, expectations and potential online dangers. Spend time exploring their online devices and apps with them. Familiarize yourself with security and privacy settings.
- Discuss rules and guidelines. Your child should share with you all passwords. All devices should be “turned in” at night, as this is when there is the most risk for misuse. Agree upon the amount of time your child can use their devices each day (aside from homework tasks). Your child should agree to never share their passwords with anyone, never communicate online with anyone they don’t know in-person, and never send vulgar or mean messages to anyone. Let them know the importance of coming to you if anything makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
Technology isn’t the enemy, but how people choose to use it can be dangerous. As “cyber-connections” continue to grow as primary communication, helping your child to make good decisions through face-to-face conversation and modeling healthy behaviors can really go a long way!