In 2017, parents need to teach their children how to responsibly use the internet. Problematically, many parents don’t even have the skills they need to be teaching their children! If you find yourself struggling to teach your child how to responsibly use social media, online gaming, or the internet in general, Ottawa Youth Counselling can help.
1. DO Teach Them Internet Competencies
The internet is a fundamental part of growing up in 2017, but unfortunately many parents do not teach their children the basic competencies required to stay safe online. Having not grown up the internet age themselves, many parents barely even know what social networks are, let alone how to use them responsibly.
Kids should know the value of the information they are capable of revealing online, and how it can be used against them. Names, pictures, and even birthdays are all apparently innocent pieces of info; but revealed in the wrong place and used by the wrong people, can lead to negative consequences.
Whether information is revealed over Facebook, instagram, Xbox Live, Minecraft, or anywhere else, kids ought to be taught the skills required to be capable of responsibly using the internet.
2. DON’T Overly Restrict Use
One mistake that parents always make is thinking they can control their teens behavior.
When it comes to internet use, often putting hard limits on what your child can do online does little to actually stop bad behaviour, it simply causes your child to do it in ways you don’t know about.
This isn’t to say you can’t or shouldn’t put rules on what is and is not acceptable online behaviour. It’s simply the case that if your child wants to do something online, and you won’t let them, you can expect them to find ways around your rules.
If you say “no Instagram” and your child wants to Instagram, you can expect them to go to great lengths to do so in ways that you don’t notice. Perhaps you’ll catch them, but they’ll learn not to make the same mistakes twice, and will continue to act in a way that you don’t approve of.
Worse than this, they’ll do so without your supervision. They will engage in whatever behaviour you have banned secretly, and will lack the guidance they need to do so properly and responsibly. Moreover, if they make a mistake and end up hurting themselves, they will be less likely to reach out for help in fear that they will be punished.
It’s always better to use a carrot instead of a stick, so instead of banning certain online behavior outright, give them an alternative means by which they can do what they want in a way that fits both your needs and produces responsible internet use. For example, if your child is over-indulging in MineCraft, don’t ban it. Produce some kind of mechanism by which your child can earn time. Maybe chores around the house can earn an evening playing minecraft with friends. If they do a little extra, maybe you’ll buy them some snacks and let them stay up awhile!
3. DO Keep An Eye On Their Usage
There are hundreds of different tools and techniques available for monitoring internet use. Any one of them represents a powerful opportunity to keep your children safe, but knowing what lengths to go to is a moral dilemma parents ought to give significant consideration to.
In 2017, it’s a simple fact that no web traffic goes un-monitored, and this is a fact that your children ought to be aware of. A meaningful way to teach them is to let them know you are monitoring their internet use, but not how.
Even if you aren’t, the thought that you are is a great way to instill the virtue of self-monitoring for your child. The internet can feel like a free and open space, but there is plenty of harmful stuff that kids can expose themselves to, and even participate in, without even meaning to. From cyber-bullying to harmful content, it’s important for you to have access to this difficult-to-monitor aspect of your child’s life so that you can help them build the skills required to engage with it responsibly.
4. DON’T Invade Privacy Lightly
Social media accounts, chat logs, and internet history are the ‘diary’ of teens in 2017, but far more personal.
The tools you can use to monitor your children’s internet use can provide unprecedented access into the personal life of your teens, but doing so thoughtlessly will deeply violate the trust of your child and cause irreparable harm to your relationship, and possibly their psychological health.
This isn’t to say you should never access this information, as in many cases it is warranted. It is simply the case that you ought to only do so in cases of clear and un-doubtable justification.