After such a strong response to our article on how to protect younger children online, we thought it would be a good idea to address this issue with the kids that need it the most: our teens and tweens.
As internet accessibility for teens and tweens grows, protecting them in this environment is becoming a priority for parents. Time management and the ability to make wise choices are also critical in the internet arena. As parents, our responsibility is to teach our children appropriate internet usage and social skills. Below you will find a few ideas for how to protect children online.
8 Tips for How to Protect Teens & Tweens Online
1. Use parental control software
Using parental control software automatically levels the playing field for you, the parent. If you have WiFi in your home, the latest routers can even be set up with hours of availability assigned to users. Parental controls can also be set up 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 ilicit 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 the fact that using the internet is a privilege and responsibility, 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 internet rules. You may even want to post the rules near the computer for the visual reminder.
4. Set social media etiquette guidelines
Social networking is on the rise, and a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 22 percent of teenagers log onto their favorite social media sites more than 10 times a day, and that 75 percent own cell phones. Some of the risks involved in teens social media usage include cyberbullying, exposure to inappropriate content, sexting, and depression because of “unfriending” or not being “liked” publicly on social media. 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). Whatever you do, 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 send their kids to private Christian schools, and they thought they had it all covered and were protecting their tweens by putting parental control software on their home computers and WiFi – but they completely forgot about the cell phones! If you choose to allow your teen or tween to have 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, and 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 in their use of phones and computers. 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 on your cell phone than reading God’s word?
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.
What precautions has your family implemented for online protection? How are you trying to teach your teens or tweens to use the Internet and social media for good? Please leave your comments below. We’d love to hear from you!
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, the latest book 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.