I consider myself to be pretty savvy when it comes to the internet. I have two blogs, an internet-based business, and a facebook account. But let’s face it: in spite of all that, my 14-year-old son can run circles around me when it comes to technology. It can be difficult to monitor a teen’s internet presence when often they know more about what’s possible than we do.
It is fairly easy to protect my young children from the evils of the internet. Their online activity is limited, and our Covenant Eyes internet filter protects them from stumbling across websites that would be harmful to them. But our teenage son needs more than walls to protect him. One day soon he will be out on his own, and free to make his own choices. Walls are only effective when you can keep your kids “inside the castle” at all times. Our kids need training as well, so they will be capable of protecting themselves when they venture forth into the world on their own.
I highly recommend a new Covenant Eyes e-book, Parenting the Internet Generation: 7 Potential Threats and 7 Habits for Internet Integrity. It is packed with information about how to construct safe walls, but goes beyond that as well, showing parents how to train their children to protect themselves. I learned many helpful tips, such as how to use blocking features to limit what my kids can see on YouTube, and how to search for my teen’s “digital footprint” online. It also addresses the larger issue of “How do I teach my kids to use the internet with integrity?”
Although it can be overwhelming to keep up with our teens online, and thus tempting to stick our heads in the sand, we cannot afford to relax our vigilance.
Here are some things you can do to keep tabs on your teenager’s online activity.
- Require teens to share their passwords with you as a condition for their access to email accounts, Facebook, online chat , and the like. If they change their passwords, revoke their privileges.
- Have all your teen’s email forwarded to your own email account so you can keep daily tabs on what they are receiving. Don’t forget to check out what they are sending, as well.
- Have an internet filter on PC’s and personal devices. Some devices cannot yet be filtered, but parental controls can be activated to disable certain functions, including internet access.
- Be aware of who your teen’s friends are, both online and off. Talk with your teen before she accepts “friend requests” on Facebook. Does she know this person in real life? What kind of a person are they? Visit your teen’s Facebook friends’ pages to see what they list as their interests, and what kinds of things they are posting. Talk with your teen if you have concerns about anything you find.
- Be aware that not all social networking sites are created equal. Some have more restrictions than others about posting unsavory photos and videos.
- Technology changes rapidly and your teen may know about it before you do! In the words of Ronald Reagan, “Trust, but verify.”