Diligent is not a word many would use to describe me.
I like naps and snacks and am easily sidetracked by pretty things. I know myself well enough to anticipate and admit that.
But, when it comes to my children and and keeping them safe, I am diligent.
Maybe even relentless.
I endeavor to keep them safe in all situations, including those they encounter online.
To do so, I rely primarily on safety training -teaching them how to behave and respond in situations that may be unsafe, and giving them the tools they need to succeed.
We do a lot of talking -talking about what’s appropriate and what isn’t (sometimes the need you to be explicit), talking about how to respond when they see something that makes them uncomfortable, talking about how JT threw Jessica Biel the roller skating birthday party of my dreams!
Seeeee, pretty things!
Point is, we do a lot of talking just so they know they can talk to me.
But, it’s not entirely a relationship thing.
As a mom to teens, I also expect them to make common teenager mistakes from time to time. I work really hard to prevent, but I also am prepared for when/if they do.
Staying informed is step one.
Which is so hard in 2017!
Because technology basically won’t let parents be great. It moves too fast, does too much, and expects a lot out of us old people.
But, to keep teens safe online, we kinda just have to be on top of it.
It always makes me shiver when I hear parents saying things like, “Oh I don’t Twitter!” Or, “Snapchat is weird, I don’t get it.”
BUT YOU HAVE TO!
If you don’t know what a Fetty Wap is, are confused by the animal human face photos, or think Ask.fm might be a radio station you need to do better!
Even though it’s exhausting. Even though our brains say no. Even though we long to do the whole in-my-day thing like our parents did.
Kids of today are expected to be tech savvy and familiar with a variety of platforms and I allow my kids to engage in technology because I want them to succeed in the digital landscape. I prefer they learn and explore while I am still a controlling entity in their lives -so we can have real talks about safe online behavior before they are 18 and off just doing whatever without my guidance.
So let’s start with some education.
Keep Teens Safe Online: 10 Things Parents Need to Know
How to Work a Smartphone
For most kids, their most dangerous access point to all of the Internet crazy is the one they carry around with them. They access most of their Internet outside of what they do for school directly from their smartphones.
For that reason, the easiest way to keep teens safe online is to familiarize yourself with that device.
If you’re allowing your kids to have a smartphone, you should have the same one they have -that way you will sort of have to learn to use it.
How to Use Those Parental Controls
These are your friend. The ones on your phone that allow you to prevent app downloads and access to other adult content as well as those provided by your carrier can help eliminate a lot of basic access and exposure.
I can’t speak for any other carriers, but I am super happy with Verizon’s Family Base. It allows me to see everything from who my kids are contacting to when they are using their devices. It also allows me to block certain things, like texting after a certain time of day or sending/receiving photos. It is a basic monitoring/protection option that does a lot of what the average child will require.
Apps Like Monkey
This app and others like it allows kids to have 10 second video chats with strangers via Snapchat. Kids don’t really need to talk to strangers do they? Any app that promotes this should be a red flag.
How Snapchat Works
Okay, here’s the thing about Snapchat, lots of kids use it and love it. Many of them are using it appropriately. Some of them are not. It is super hard to monitor, but it’s also not as “secret” as your kids might think. The best thing you can do is download it and learn to use it yourself. Then have some real discussions with your kids about the potential dangers. Continuously check in with them about it and stay on top of their usage patterns.
The Fine Art of Hiding Apps
When kids start to realize that you might be taking issue with some of their app choices, they may find ways to hide them. They mask them behind icons that look innocuous to a casual parent observer.
There are apps that assist with this. And there are basic tutorials even you can follow. Just Google: How to Hide Apps. The instructions you find will also help you know how to find them on your child’s phone.
That Your Kid Will Probably Look at Porn
Did you know that researchers say that the average age kids have their first exposure to porn is age 8. Holy crap on a cracker, my 8 year old is a BABY! But, thank you Internet. For making that magic happen. So, whether it is on accident (your 8 year old) or on purpose (your 15 year old), it is bound to occur at some point in their adolescent life.
I’m just saying. It’s bound to happen. And you need to protect yourself and your data now for when it does. The last thing you want is your identity stolen because your kid wanted to look at boobs on Big Booby Masters (totally made up name, don’t Google it).
Which Social Media & Messaging Sites Your Child Uses
Probably Instagram and Snapchat. Maybe Twitter. Possibly Music.aly. What about Kik? Twitch? WhatsApp? Ask.fm? Facebook (probably not as much because of old people). It’s not hard to find out -sign up and many of these apps will connect you to people in your contacts who have accounts.
Or, you could keep it real and just ask them (and then check for yourself just to be sure)!
If Your Child Has Public Profiles
I get it, kids want followers. Me too. But you should know if your child has a public profile so that you can monitor what the world is seeing and how they are being interacted with.
Monitoring Options for When Things Get Nuts
I don’t feel the need to monitor my children’s every move at this point. Based on what I do now, I know they are having largely appropriate digital relationships with content and other people.
But, I’m not a dummy.
And, I am prepared for every scenario.
I am on guard for warning signs that would make me need to up my stalking.
I don’t use these with my children now, but many parents do choose to use products like these regularly, for consistent monitoring.
Regardless of what you choose, you should know they’re out there.
Teen Safe has a lot of offerings and good ratings. It allows you to view texts, calls, and browsing history. You can see their contacts and it even shows you messages on What’s App and Kik. It also tracks location, current and previous. So when the little liar is like, “Nah, Mom, I was at Trevor’s house!” You can be all, “For real? Trevor lives by the strip club now?!”
Even if this seems a bit invasive for your tastes, the guide is informative and you can check it out here: Parenting Guide to Tech Safety.
Your Kids Want It to Be Safe
No one wants to be bullied. No one wants a photo of their junk sent around. No one wants to find out they are talking to an old, one eyed man in a forest trailer instead of a hot 15 year old from across town. Any kid who has found themselves in online trouble wishes it never happened. Help prevent it by being diligent, informed, and involved!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Keep Teens Safe Online Series: The Uncomfortable Talk About Porn You Have to Have with Your Kid