If you are the parent of a teenager and you have a home computer, then it’s likely that he or she would be surfing the Web 24 hours a day — if you allow it. There’s also a strong possibility that your teen is hiding their online activities. BusinessWire.com released a study conducted by McAfee, a dedicated security technology company, showing that 70 percent of teens hide their Internet use from their parents.
The study broke down how teens were hiding their Web activity: 15 percent of the teens in the study had hacked into a social network; 30 percent had pirated movies or music; and 48.1 percent had cheated on tests, looking up answers on their phones. The study evaluated the awareness of parents and how much they knew about their child’s computer use, finding that more than 70 percent of the parents didn’t see anything abnormal or alarming about their teen’s Internet use.
So, how can parents stay on top of their kids’ online activity without being overbearing, thus encouraging their teens to conceal more? Here are a few suggestions we think will build a stronger connection between you and your teen, while also teaching them the importance of responsible Internet use.
Surf the Internet with your Teenager
Let your kid know that not everything is off limits; go to YouTube and watch viral and funny videos together. If you see something that makes you or your teen obviously uncomfortable, talk about it, and let them know they can trust you and you won’t punish them for their openness.
Keep Sensitive Information Private
Let your teen know that while you want to be in the know about what they are doing and that you can be trusted, the rest of the world on the Internet cannot be trusted. Let your teen know what the consequences are to sharing private information such as phone numbers, addresses, social security numbers, bank account information or other sensitive information. Ask them to be honest with you about whether they have shared private details already and with whom.
Empower Your Teen
Let your teen know you view them as an intelligent, responsible young adult who is capable of making the right choice. Deanna of MommyGaga.com advises parents to take an educational tactic in teaching their teens to be responsible users, rather than the prison guard tactic the “Today Show” presents. Deanna advises parents to teach their kids how to use common sense and behave accordingly, so as to not come to a point where you’re policing your kids’ computer use.
What if it’s Gone Too Far?
If you’re phones are tapped, the Feds have paid you a visit regarding wire fraud and your teen is spending 80 hours a week holed up in his or her bedroom, maybe it’s time to use some enforcement. Dr. Michele Borba’s article on Today.com suggests that parents let their kids know that the parent will be online and in charge. This may mean you have spyware hooked up to the family computer, or that you will be in the room while they are online. Having all Internet devices in a family room, and not hidden, can also discourage your kid from doing anything that you wouldn’t approve.
As always, it’s important to be honest and open with your child about why you are protecting them. If you explain why it is important to discuss their online interactions, then they will be more likely to trust you and less likely to think you are just trying to make their lives miserable.
Contributor: John Hill. He is a former print journalist who converted to digital when he fell in love with blogging for larger audiences. He writes about health, fitness and medical topics.