6 Internet Safety Rules for Parents of Teens and Tweens

It is no doubt that the internet has changed the world in ways most of us couldn’t have even seen coming. Young people today find themselves in a world where they are constantly online. Cell phones, Wi-Fi hotspots, and tablets have made being online 24/7 ‘the norm,” making responsible digital parenting more important than ever. According to research, thirty seven percent of Americans aged twelve to seventeen access the Internet on a smartphone and over half are accidentally exposed to inappropriate content. Because of these stats and the prevalence of the internet, it is more important than ever to lay ground rules for your connected kids. 

 During the course of digital parenting, it’s hard for children to understand you’re only concerned for their wellbeing. Most advice you offer seems like it’s completely ignored or seen as a challenge. There are ways to set rules with your children so they understand your concern and don’t see it as an attack. Remember that your own teenage years likely saw you become stubborn as you tried to learn how to make your own choices. Technology may connected kids, but it doesn’t change what being a kid is. While the experience of growing up may be the same, the connected world your kids find themselves in creates new challenges that require hard rules. Here are 6 Internet safety rules for parents of teens and tweens to enforce:

  1. Keep computers in the family room and limit kids' home internet time - Make a family rule that keeps laptops and out of the bedroom and in the family room. Your child can still enjoy privacy when going online, but is less likely to search out or click on questionable content if he or she knows that you could walk by at any moment. Enforcing internet time also helps you maintain authority over your child's internet usage.

  2. Teach your child how to maintain personal privacy - One in five children are sexually solicited online. When your tween's Facebook page shows their full name, picture, hometown, age, gender and school, it becomes easier for pedophiles to locate them.  Engage with your child about why it's important to protect personal information online and what is appropriate and inappropriate to post. Setting rules, such as "no meeting up with people you meet online unless accompanied by mom and dad " can help your child understand boundaries.

  3. Teach critical thinking skills - As the National Institute of Health notes, children's brains aren't fully developed until age 25. At younger ages, they may lack judgment and critical thinking skills. Walk children through critical thinking about web content using homework assignments as a starting point. For example, if your child needs to write a book report, help her research. Then demonstrate the difference between user-submitted content, authoritative content and spam.

  4. Be honest about content redistribution - Sexting apps like Snapchat promise to delete content by a date you request; however, if a user screen shots the content, they own a copy of it. Socially shared images have had disastrous consequences for teens. Use recent news stories (for example the Steubenville or Maryville rape cases) as a teachable moment for your child. Once posted online, content can be dangerous. 

  5. Use an internet system that offers parental control and personal protection - Older kids may take advantage of home alone time by going online. Help keep them safe by investing in a home internet provider that offers parental protection, firewalls and spamware or malware filters. Call and discuss these different features for home phone and internet deals or for satellite providers before committing.

  6. Monitor child internet activity – It is extremely important nowadays to monitor what your child is doing online since there is a big gap between what you can see your child doing at home and what happens in their digital world’s.  There are some great products available, like uKnowKids,that can help you understand and engage with your child’s digital life and act if necessary.

Need more tips to keep to keep your family safe and responsible at home? Read our eBook for rules and tips: “15 Digital Safety Rules Every Household Should Follow.”

                      10 things to teach your kids about internet safety                

We are pleased to announce that Bark will be taking over where we leave off. The uKnowKids mission to protect digital kids will live on with Bark. Our team will be working closely with Bark’s team in the future, so that we can continue making the digital world a safer, better place for kids and their families. While we are disappointed we could not complete this mission independently, we are also pleased to hand the uKnowKids baton to Bark.
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