Are you the parent of a teenager who uses the internet? If you are, have you already had the internet safety talk with your teenager? If you haven’t, it is time for that talk to occur. As nice as it is to be able to use the internet for school research projects or to communicate with friends online, it is important to remember that the internet can also be a danger to children and teenagers.
As nice as it is to hear that you should talk to your teenager about internet safety, you may be curious as to how you can go about doing so. Bringing up the subject can be hard, as your teen may automatically become defensive. The good news is that you do have a number of different options. One of those options is to just go for it.
When you outright discuss internet safety with your teenager, make sure that you pick a good time to have the talk. Don’t start ranting right away about your teen’s internet use and the dangers after a disagreement or when tensions are already high. With teenagers, this can lead to other problems. It may cause your teenager to not listen to you just for the point of not listening or they may purposely defy you.
Another option that you have, when looking to discuss internet safety with your child, is to wait until your child gets off the computer. When they walk away, ask them if they know about being safe online and the dangers that the internet has. This is a great opener, when your child is already using the computer. It may make you sound less like an overprotective, overbearing parent, at least in the eyes of your teenager.
When discussing internet safety with your teenager, it is important to not assume that your child already knows. Even if your child stops you and tells you they already know how to be safe online, don’t stop. Be sure to restate your point and establish any internet rules you would like your child to follow. It is important to remember that many teenagers think they know everything, but many don’t. For example, your child may know that there are internet predators out there, but do they also know that pictures of them smoking or drinking underage could get them suspended from school or even arrested, no matter how “cool,” they look on a MySpace page?
Speaking of MySpace, it is important to know what you should talk to your child about. Since many teenagers use MySpace and other similar social networking websites, they should be discussed. Make sure your child knows that anyone can hide behind a computer, even a sexual predator. Also, let them know the dangers of posting personal information and pictures on their social networking profiles.
In addition to social networking websites, like MySpace, internet chat rooms should also be discussed. Internet chat rooms are different, but similar in nature to instant messaging programs, like AOL or MSN. Generally speaking, instant messaging programs are safer for teens to use, as they aren’t automatically paired up and thrown into a chat room with other internet users, who are essentially strangers. As with social networking websites, make sure that your child knows that they could, essentially, be talking to anyone. Tell them to get out of a chat room right away if the tone turns sexual in nature or if they receive a private message from someone who makes them feel uncomfortable.
You may also want to discuss personal blogs. Many websites, like Blogger.com. and WordPress.com allow internet users to start free blogs. Many teens find this a nice and easy way to vent or allow their friends to stay up-to-date on their thoughts. Your teenager needs to know that anyone can view these blogs, so their information really isn’t private and personal, say as a handwritten journal.
As you can see, there are a number of different ways that you can go about discussing internet safety with your teenager. Remember to do so, however, before it is too late. Any child who uses the internet should be well aware of the dangers that lurk.