Good Digital Parenting
Sept. 29, 2017

How To Protect Your Teen Without Being Overprotective

Journalist

As a parent, it’s no secret that raising teens can be difficult. For generations, this transitional time has been accompanied by hormones, brain development, and a variety of changes that find kids craving independence and freedom. Today, however, our kids are facing new challenges as they also have to learn how to navigate the digital frontier. This changing social landscape, coupled with traditional teenage angst, can find parents skating a fine line between being too lax or too overprotective when it comes to keeping our teens safe.

Please scroll through the following 7 suggestions for ideas to protect teens without being overprotective:

Follow “The Grandma Rule”.  Social media is quickly becoming a staple in today’s society, making it essential that our children understand social media etiquette. While trends and apps come and go, it’s a good idea to only leave comments you’re comfortable with a grandparent stumbling upon. If you question how grandma would react, then it probably isn’t appropriate. This strategy helps teens define acceptable behaviors while encouraging them to remember anything posted on social media is never really private.

Follow recommended age requirements and double check a teen’s social media privacy settings. Technology is constantly evolving, requiring apps and sites to regularly update terms of agreements and privacy recommendations. Occasionally, there are holes in a child’s privacy settings which opens them to a host of safety concerns. Every so often, check a child’s settings to ensure they aren’t broadcasting their personal information, addresses, or contact information. It’s also a good idea to encourage teens to avoid avatars or usernames that give away their age and location.

Require teens to share their plans with you. Avoid constant status updates or phone calls by having teens share their plans and whereabouts. Make sure they include places, times, and people they are with. This will keep us informed, allow kids a little independence, and still provide accountability. Text them once or twice for updates about their comings or goings. Many parents ask kids to text a simple “here” or “leaving” to know when a teen has arrived or left a location.

Reduce screen time. The average teen spends an average of 9 hours every day consuming media. Within the home, keep technology and electronics away from bedrooms, bathrooms, and the family dinner table. Also, provide chances for kids to explore activities that don’t require an outlet. Consider signing kids up for scouting programs, joining sports, exploring backyard gardening, or creating a relaxation zone in the home. This will provide teens a break from constant glowing screens and connectivity, offering their minds some much needed down time. 

AKW2

Lay the foundation early for open communication. Dialogue is essential because 70 percent of teens regularly hide their online activity from parents. Kids do this by covertly dimming screens, shutting windows, or using fake social media profiles. This secrecy can make it easier for our kids to fall victim to a variety of common digital dangers. We need to be upfront and honest about cyberbullying, online predators, sexting, identity theft, and oversharing. Kids need to know that there are real risks associated with digital citizenship. By encouraging kids to talk about social media, trends, places they frequent, and if anyone ever makes them feel uncomfortable, we can start an ongoing conversation to revisit often. Strive to listen and avoid judging or blaming our sons or daughters to help with this process.

Develop a “code”. Many teens enjoy hanging out with their friends or exploring the community without mom and dad. Unfortunately, this independence sometimes comes at a cost. Peer pressure can put kids in some dangerous situations that involve alcohol, drugs, parties, and drivers who are under the influence. Plan ahead and give a child a code word or symbol to send at the end of a text to signal they are uncomfortable. Then you can demand that they come home or need to do something, giving them an exit out of the situation and a safe ride home. 

Encourage them to notify us or a trusted adult if they encounter anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. It’s no secret that cyberbullying, sexting requests, predators, and inappropriate content can be frequently found on social media. In fact, the rates of cyberbullying have tripled within recent years, with 87 percent of our kids witnessing this digital bullying. Teens need to know that they can seek help or support so we can stop the problem from escalating. If a bystander steps in, bullying usually stops within ten seconds!

How do you protect your teen without being overprotective?