The recent ‘Secret Life of Teens’ research results definitely provided Aussie parents with a wakeup call! While 80% of parents trust their kids not to access age inappropriate content, 67% of our teens admit their parents don’t know everything they do online! And with over 30% of teens admitting to pirating and 6% admitting to meeting up with a stranger that had met online, the alarm bells are blaring!
When I spoke to my teenage sons about some of the statistics, you would of course be able to predict their responses:
‘No-one I know does that’.
‘I am fine, I get it’.
‘Don’t worry. I am not going to do anything stupid’.
I’ve got it covered!’
And while I don’t doubt them for a minute(!) I am also very aware that they are physically not yet able to truly understand the concept of risk – that doesn’t happen for at least another 6-8 years!
Dr Justin Coulson, parenting expert, explains in his recent article ‘The Computer is On. What are the Children Doing?’, that a human’s pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for executive function and forward planning) does not fully develop until our early twenties. So it seems that there is no-way that teenagers can truly understand the concept of ‘risk’!
So, what can we do about these worrying statistics? How can we make sure our teens are not taking unnecessary risks while making sure they are still able to interact with their friends online and have the necessary level of teenage ‘social currency’?
Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing some tips with you that will help you keep your kids safe online. Here are a few to get you started:
1. Educate Your Child Just Like You Would In the Offline World
- Teach your teens about the importance of online manners and respect.
- Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you!
- Talk about technology safety just like you talk about safety while driving and playing sport. Explain that online friends are not necessarily true friends.
- Explain the importance of digital reputation to your teens. Help them understand that they are on display and how important it is to make responsible choices when they post.
- Make sure your kids know to come to either yourself or a teacher if they are either experiencing or witnessing cyberbullying. Teach your children not to be a silent bystander and to stand up for friends, not to sit by and do nothing.
2. Get Technology Working For You
- The ‘Secret Life of Teens’ research showed that whilst 70% of parents believe in parental controls, only 32% are using them.
- So, make sure your security software is comprehensive and will protect you against viruses, spyware and hackers.
- Comprehensive security software allows you to relax a little knowing that your teens won’t download nasty viruses when (accidentally!?) entering competitions for free phones!
So, next time your teens tell you ‘they’ve got it covered’ don’t stress. Simply look at them and smile – knowing that you do too!
Till Next Time,