Teens and Safe Internet Use

Teens are so used to computers that they seem to be born with those electronic skills. Their cell phones are an extension of their eyes. On the other hand, most of their parents are not; many are still struggling with becoming competent Outlook users or programming their mobile phone. How does that split between generations fit in with being competent parents? Should parents take a course to become skilled computer and Internet users? Should they start their own Facebook page, so they can sign on to their children’s Facebook page? Should they be a friend on their teen’s fan page?

In light of the mayhem caused by teens on Facebook and on other social media sites that is causing tremendous emotional damage to many adolescents, his seems a timely question. Children die and other children might possibly be criminally prosecuted, so the answer is easy: yes!
Just as important to your children as becoming a supplier of wholesome meals, or stopping smoking, becoming a parent who can help and supervise your child on the Internet is extremely important to our next generation of future adults.

Did you know that a Facebook requirement is being a minimum of 13 years of age? Only parents can take down their child’s website, right on the Facebook website by clicking on the help centre and reporting illegal use. This can be a tool for you to teach your child the proper use of Facebook.

The excuse parents I hear parents often use for not supervising the child in their home is “not being good on the computer”. In the meantime, many parents do not feel strong enough for the alternative: NO ACCESS. They do not feel strong enough to refuse their child access to the family computer, not wanting to be old fashioned, or be seen as not cool, or different from other parents. How often did you fall for arguments like “Holly’s parents lets her on Facebook” and since you cannot check what she is doing anyway, you let it go altogether?

Anyone who has read Lord Of The FLies can just imagine what kids can be capable of when unchecked by adults. Being unsupervised gives children a license to write whatever comes up in their teenage brain, pass on nasty messages, and especially photos, to whomever, and for whatever purpose. Their messages could be about what another teen is saying to yet another teen when angry or taking sides in a larger conflict, and a campaign starts possibly even against a former friend, and it remains unchecked by any adult. Nobody knows whether what your teen says fits with your family values, or with your friends’ or your religion’s values, or even if it falls within the legal perimeters of community standards.

Parents, have you taught your children what is acceptable communication on line? Did you go on their websites, together with your children, and have you seen with your own eyes with whom they communicate and who their friends on Facebook are, what kind of messages they send, what kind of web sites they visit?
Are there any 20 or 40 year olds among their friends? You say “of course not”, but does your daughter have friends that say they are 15 year old, but when you check their messages, that “friend” is someone outside of her school and has way too precocious conversations about things that they should not know? Could that “boy” possibly be a predator in disguise? Your child does not have the knowledge or judgment to determine that. Does your child give out a real name and phone number to people she never met, and do you know to whom she gives that information?

Teen children are still in all other ways under your guidance. You would not give them open access to your bank account, would you? You would not hand over your car keys, if they hadn’t passed their learners exam, would you? Just as learning to drive a car and use money responsibly, children need to be taught how to socially interact with their peers in an acceptable manner. Whom are they going to learn that from, if not from you, as their parent? We can not leave that up to the school. Our children are only in a very limited way the teachers’ responsibility. Your family’s values and enforcement of those values in your children are your responsibility.

Children do what they see their parents do. “Do as I say, not do as I do” is not working!
My question is whether you have allowed your children to witnesses your fights with your spouse or with another adult that got out of hand? Do you routinely use abusive language? Do you threaten or tell people what will happen to them if you had your way with them? Do you speak derogatory about others? To your child? Do you use phrases like idiot, I hate you, shut up?

Let the senseless deaths of young students this year be a warning. Let’s take the initiative and do what parents need to do: go on your child’s computer and on her cell phone together with her. Stay in touch with the school staff and your child’s friends’ parents, and especially those of former friends. Find out if she fights fair and can deal properly with conflicts, whether she respects others, even if that friend looks and acts different than the rest or not as popular. Can he stop others, report bullying if he sees it done to others, and be the one to stop a potential death? Be involved with your child and ask how things are with their friends, and most of all, become computer literate.


About BABYBOOMER johanna van zanten

My name is Johanna van Zanten. I am a baby boomer, interested in writing and connecting with other writers and readers to engage in discussions and information sharing, to share a point of view about current global issues, writing, and publishing, diversity, immigration, travel, music, life, specific baby boomer issues, and dating/relationship issues. I have written a novella, ON THIN ICE about baby-boomer Adrienne and will link this blog with the information website for this novella. Right now, I am trying out the blog.
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