With the continuous introduction of faster, more efficient devices coupled with the latest and greatest apps and social media power, it’s no wonder some of us are feeling like life is moving faster each day. We look at our kids and are pretty darn impressed at how easily they can adapt to the changes in technology. It seems like each year, kids are getting their first smartphone at an even younger age.
There’s a lot more that goes into the decision to get your teen their first phone than toys, clothes or really anything else we buy for them. A new series of posts on Bell Canada’s official blog is offering helpful advice for parents shopping for their teen’s first phone which got me thinking about one of the biggest issues facing parents of connected teens: How do we keep our teens safe while respecting their privacy?
Something as simple as your teen’s privacy settings, which they may not even be aware exist, could potentially give anyone and everyone access to your teen’s pictures, status updates, and even their location. We all know what an emotional roller coaster it is to be a teen, and now that roller coaster is playing out online for the world to see.
It is important for us, as parents, to educate our kids about the public and permanent nature of the internet and social media. Precarious pictures, inappropriate comments and personal information may not seem like a big deal to a teenager, but there are many instances where they may regret a poorly chosen Facebook profile picture or that questionable tweet — right now or ten years in the future. The internet doesn’t forget!.
So how do we balance the need to protect our kids while still respecting their privacy?
The reality is, technology will continue moving forward and as parents, it is our responsibility to try and keep up with our kids. I tell my friends that they need to get on the devices and jump online to understand what’s going on.
While our teens demand some privacy (hey, that hasn’t changed from when we were their age), the landscape has changed. If we think back to when we were teenagers, yes, we fought with our parents about our rights for privacy, but we would retreat to the bedroom, lock the door, and dial up a friend to vent
Now “effortless” seems to have become very much a phrase that is coveted in western societies. We all want more results with less effort. That includes how we communicate with each other. I’m one to admit that it’s way more efficient to send a text or email (autocorrect and all). But I know I need to be mindful when I respond, especially to my kids. It can be a balancing act, but I’m trying.
That’s the word. Mindful. If we can teach our kids to stop and think, that’s half the battle.
There are instances that are beyond our control, and our kids’ control. We’ve all heard the crazy stories about small house parties going viral on social media and then all of the sudden instead of 10 invited guests your kid’s got 100 unexpected revelers showing up at your door. As parents, we’re trying to understand and respect our teens’ lives and privacy as we try our best to keep them safe.
While we can’t shelter them from everything (and trust me, they are ahead of most of us in technology) we still need to understand and set some guidelines.
Here are some quick common sense tips that may help…
- DON’T PRETEND TO KNOW: I know a quite a few parents who just go with the flow and proudly tell me that their teen has tons of followers on a social media platform. But when I ask the parents if they’ve ever been on, I’m surprised how often they haven’t. Don’t be afraid to ask what it is and how your teen uses the medium. Ask your teen to show you how it all works or do a little research. It’s all online!
- CHECK AND BALANCE: While some parents have rules about joining a social media group, like “friending” their kids, here’s the thing… If your kids don’t want you to see their profile, they’ll figure out those complicated privacy settings to make sure that you don’t. And you won’t know. Instead, do random checks with your kid. Together. Just be prepared to not respond to the silly chatter that happens on social media amongst them and resist the urge to correct spelling and grammar. It’s still their space.
- CHECK THE SETTINGS: Not just on your teen’s devices (tablets, smartphones, laptops, gaming consoles) but yours as well to ensure you have the privacy and locations settings you desire. Check once in a while to make sure nothing has changed: social sites are always changing and updating their rules and regulations. It is important for you to be aware of what these changes mean for you and your family.
In the end, all of these ideas are based on cooperation and trust and will only succeed with mutual respect. I know most parents are paying for their teen’s phone bills. Signing up for a Family Plan like the ones at Bell Canada, allows you to share data with your teens. They’re not just a way to save money on your bills. They’re a chance to start a dialogue with your kids about responsibility. As we’re gearing up for back to school, it’s a good time to remind them that having these devices are privileges. Set some firm, yet respectful, conditions together and remind them to be mindful of their online activity.
How are you balancing privacy and protecting your kids online?