Wednesday January 18th 2017

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Internet access for teens? Block and talk for full protection

The Internet can make you smarter if you use it correctly. In fact, you don’t have to look very hard or far to find plenty of ways to get into trouble. It is difficult enough for adults. Traps include:

… but Internet access for teens is even scarier because their powers of discernment are not as finely tuned. They are also a wonderfully curious bunch so sometimes they find trouble when they weren’t really looking for it. That is why it is important for parents to teach their kids to be safe on the Internet.

How much is too much?

Our kids are growing up in the technology age. Like it or not ,technology is here to stay so our kids need to learn how to use it safely.

Q: How much access is enough for them to be technology smart without putting them in danger?
A: 4-6 hours per day for school or work oriented online life is about the limit for teens and adults.

Teens will react differently to the Internet. Until we parents understand our own teen’s tolerance for the Internet, we would be wise to have safeguards in place.

Protecting teens from internet danger

There are many levels and forms of protection we parents can use to keep our teens safe online. However, if the only thing we do is deploy various blocking services without ever talking to our teens about their online behavior they are never going to be fully protected.

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We have to talk to our teens. The Internet is essentially private communication in that we rarely see or hear what our teens are doing but what teens do not understand is once something is online it is forever. We must teach them the implications of their online life. Some things to keep in mind?

  1. Set aside a shared online environment in your home.
  2. Monitor online time and set limits.
  3. Observe what and how your teen is browsing.
  4. Teach your kids to read the fine print in all online interactions.

Some other pointers? When it comes to parental controls there are several options you can use:

  • Internet Service Provider: Every ISP has some sort of parental control you can activate.
  • Device Options: Depending on the device, there are several types of features available.
  • Software: There are specific software programs to help you control access.
  • Operating System: All major operating systems have parental control features.
  • Routers: Some routers are equipped with parental control features.
  • Time Limits: Many devices allow you set usage limits.

As you select which controls to use, talk to your teens about why you are using them. Most children are naïve to the dangers so it is up to us to help them acquire Internet smarts.

Talking the talk

Sometimes parents think their teens will tune them out when they talk to them. They are probably right to some extent but that is no excuse to avoid talking to our teens. The Internet is here to stay and so is their online persona.

Teens need to understand what they put out there will come back to them at some point. The talk also needs to include stranger danger. Parents, it is not all hot air to your teens. The findings of a recent American Psychological Association survey showed teens are listening to their parents. The survey found for teens who reported their parents talking to them “a lot” about Internet safety were indeed safer and more concerned with the potential for danger in all categories. As you talk to your teens be consistent with your message of online safety.

A high is just a click away

Another danger the Internet exposes our teens to is drugs. No longer do our teens have to find the neighborhood dealer to learn about drugs. Not only can curious teens learn about drugs in general but they can also learn about the latest, greatest way to combine them for an even higher high. It is terrifying if you think about it.

However, this is where talking to our teens can have a huge impact. Helping your teens avoid addiction can be as easy as praising them for avoid drugs in the first place. Many teens report they turn to drugs because they do not know how to cope with pressure. In this case talking needs to come with real strategies teens can use to deal with their lives.

A special message about sex

Teens are interested in sex. There is no denying it. The Internet has made it easier for them to satisfy their curiosity. About 20-percent of teens admit to sharing a nude or semi-nude photo of themselves. Sending sexy messages is hardly new, but Smartphone technology has made it much easier and more dangerous. It is the danger part that teens have not quite been able to grasp. Thanks to the ability to share texts in a variety of ways those explicit images are never safe in the way an old fashioned paper photograph would have been a couple of generations ago.

Digital images are also forever. Even if the teen attempts to delete the image a digital footprint will remain. When it comes to sexual predators, a Youth Internet Safety Survey found 1 in 7 teens received a sexual solicitation message from someone they did not know. Again try to remember teens are:

  1. Naïve
  2. Curious

This combo makes for a dangerous combination when it comes to sex and the Internet.

Parents, there is a learning curve for us since most of us with teenagers did not grow up with the Internet. Ironically, thanks to the Internet there are great resources to help our teens stay safeteen literally at our fingertips. We need to learn what is available and then we need to implement the appropriate controls for our family. Keeping our teens safe online requires vigilance and endurance.

Teens and internet dangers questions

If you’d like to learn more and have some questions in mind that you would like to learn the answers to, please post the in the designated section at the bottom of this page. We appreciate your feedback and try to provide a personal and prompt response to all legitimate inquiries.

Photo credit: geralt

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About Tyler Jacobson

Tyler is a freelance writer/journalist, with past experience as the head content writer and outreach coordinator for HelpYourTeenNow. His areas of focus include: parenting, education, social media, addiction, and issues facing teenagers today.

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