In the 1980s the home computer had become commonplace. Today Apple brings that technology to your wrist, Google to your glasses, and smart phones put that technology in your back pocket. The changes that have happened to make technology mobile have happened merely in the blink of an eye.
It would be irresponsible for us as parents to assume that because our kids are part of this technological revolution that they understand the impact mobile technology has on their lives. And yet, as we ourselves struggle with these devices it can be hard for us to know how to help our kids stay safe. Fortunately we do not need to be tech savvy to teach our teens to be tech safe.
Don’t Talk To Strangers
Before the invention of mobile technology, “don’t talk to strangers,” was a typical parenting soundbite. If we tried to give today’s teen that same piece of advice they would look at us like we have completely lost it. Conversations with strangers happen daily on social media.
It is exciting and fascinating to make international friends however it can be terrifying. When used appropriately talking to a stranger in India or Germany can help your teen have a greater worldview but only if that stranger is a good person.
That is the great catch of social media—not everyone who uses it, uses it with pure intent. However, when your teen is reaching halfway across the world from the safety and comfort of their own bedroom it is hard for them to feel anything but safe. The very technology that allows our teens global access can have a flattening effect to stranger danger. Now our mission is, “Be safe on social media.”
Strangers Aren’t The Only Dangers
Thanks to the anonymity of the Internet sometimes the biggest threat to your child can be living down the street or sitting next to them in homeroom. According to the dosomething.org almost 43-percent of kids have experienced cyberbullying and 25-percent of those have had it happened more than once.
Unfortunately there are no statistics to track the percentage of students who will admit to cyberbullying. If we are to assume that for every bullied student there is one student doing the bullying, then 60-percent of your son or daughter’s high school is involved in this practice. In other words, there is an excellent chance if your teen has a mobile device he or she has been a victim, an assailant, or both.
Now that doesn’t mean you need to rush to confiscate your teen’s mobile devices because for their generations this technology will be part of their lives. The only responsible parenting choice you have is to teach them how to use it responsibly. Dosomething.org is a great tool for you and your teen because it promotes social change one teen at a time.
But Everyone Does It
With the cyber bullying statistics so staggering your teen is in danger—not just from bullies—but from becoming complacent to being bullied and the act of bullying. It may seem like it is already a losing battle. The Internet makes it too easy and mobile devices allow the teen little escape from it. If everyone is doing it and it’s virtually impossible to escape, then what is the antidote?
We must hold our teens, and ourselves, to a greater standard. Since the Internet isn’t going anywhere anytime soon it is up to us to start change at home. This means you need to regularly talk to your teen about the good, the bad, and then ugly of the Internet this infographic is a great place to start.
Making Internet Safety Realistic
The Internet and social media is only ever going to be as good as its users. But with the billions of outlets available on the Internet, how do we as parents teach our children to be safe. As for most things, the answer is education and compassion. Perhaps a turn back to, “if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all,” is also in order.
Teaching our teens the power they hold in their hands when they use a mobile device is also crucial. It is way too easy to make a snarky comment or leave a less than positive note on the Internet. Since we can’t see the person it’s easy to think our words have zero impact. However we all know that words can often do more damage than weapons. Therefore the alternate must be using social media him as a platform for change.
Teach your children to use their power for good. Social media expert Ritu Sharma wrote on the Huffington Post, “Then consider that we may have found a better alternative to reform, thanks to this byproduct of Silicon Valley, able to solve some of our most pressing problems using social media.” Making the Internet safe for everyone has to start by using it as a force for good and for change.
Parents! The best thing you can do to foster Internet safety with your teens is teach them to be good people. Teach them to be smart and kind and to expect others to treat them with the same respect. Help them cultivate the confidence needed to break ties with people who are unkind or disrespectful.