Before researching parent control apps use these tips to ensure your kids are making good choices online. The author of Screen Time Sanity: The Crazy Easy Guide To Doing Technology With Your Kids shares three questions for parents of teens to consider. *This post contains affiliate links.
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We’ve all heard the stories about the trouble kids are getting into with technology these days.
Parents are discovering their tweens texting inappropriate pictures, entire high schools getting caught up in sexting scandals, students losing full-ride scholarships to Harvard for posting hate language in open chat forums.
In almost every case, the parents were stunned to find out what their kids had been doing online.
But don’t you wonder – how could they not know?
It seems kind of cliche, doesn’t it?
As parents of today’s tween and teens, most of us grew up watching those cheesy after-school specials.
We can all remember that the primary storyline was always the same. Kids get caught doing drugs, girl gets pregnant, a boy is suspended for bullying — and in every case, the parents say, “I just can’t believe my kid would do such a thing, they’re a good kid.”
As we watched these shows, we were all sitting there rolling our eyes and thinking, “How are these parents so clueless?”
Why? Because we knew that there wasn’t some group of stereotypical delinquent kids with absentee parents who were the only ones getting into trouble. For the most part, they were a myth.
All we had to do was look around us at school to see “good” kids making not so good choices every single day.
Sometimes, we were that kid.
But imagine if someone had captured a photo or a video of us in one of those moments and posted it online. Yikes!
It’s time to stop pretending that good kids can’t make bad choices.
Science now confirms what everyone has always known. Most teens are amazing adults in the making, but they sometimes do stupid stuff.
This is because the areas of their brains responsible for decision making are still developing.
They aren’t adults yet, and they can’t fully think through the potential long-term consequences of their choices.
As a result, they are going to make mistakes.
Mistakes that, thanks to today’s technology world, could follow them online…forever.
3 Questions to Consider Before Deciding to Use a Parent Control Apps
In order to guide our kids so they can safely and responsibly navigate their new digital realities, we can’t afford to be the clueless parents from those 80’s after-school specials.
We have to be as connected to our kids as they are to their devices.
1 — How do we avoid letting virtual walls come between us and our children?
The answer is simpler than you might think.
As simple as a conversation.
But not a one and done kind of conversation. It’s one that starts and stops and picks up again later, and later again and on and on until we find our tweens and teens safely on the other side of their adolescence.
The slightly less straightforward part is understanding what a conversation looks like to a tween or teen.
Sometimes we can confuse a lecture for actually talking with our kids. It’s not the same thing.
If we want our tweens and teens to be open with us and to not hide things from us or lie about their online activity, we’ve got to nurture a new type of communication with them.
The new rules include:
- Talk less, listen more
- Ask open-ended questions, don’t make accusations
- Keep your tone neutral
- Don’t diminish their point of view, try to understand it
- Validate their feelings; you can empathize without agreeing with them
- Seek to solve problems with them, not for them
- Be flexible where you can
- No subject should be taboo
- Reinforce your family’s values
By following these guidelines (to the best of our ability) we reinforce that we care and we’re open to understanding where they are coming from. Creating an environment where our children feel safe, valued and respected makes it much more likely that they will talk honestly with us.
2 — How can we get teens talking about their online activity?
First, we make sure that we create regular times to connect and talk as a family.
As our kids get older and have more school activities and busier social lives, that may seem harder and harder.
If you do manage to carve out time for family dinners, make sure that cell phones aren’t invited. That includes the adults! Remember, more is caught than taught.
But a sit-down meal isn’t the only chance you have to open up a dialogue with your kids.
Take advantage of all that time spent in the car schlepping them around.
Make a monthly before-school coffee date at Starbucks or an after-school Froyo trip.
Have them help you whip up some pancakes for breakfast on weekend mornings.
My kids have always become chatterboxes at bedtime, and this never changed during the teen years. Lying on the bed next to them is a good way to hear all about the crazy picture someone posted on Instagram, who sent out the lamest snapchat of the day and what app is a must download to still be one of the cool kids.
Often these more informal times, when we’re just hanging out with our kids, create the perfect opportunities for low-pressure chit-chat. We may be surprised to discover this is when they’re willing to reveal the most.
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3 — And what should we be talking to our teens about?
It’s unlikely that our tweens and teens will be the ones regularly initiating the tech conversations that we need to be having with them.
No matter how great our relationship is with them, there are still things they are going to be hesitant to talk about with us (or that they may not even think are worth talking about).
The idea is to make talking about their digital lives as common and routine as their everyday lives.
Just like you ask about what they did at school, you ask about what they’re doing online.
See what websites and apps they use and have them show you. Talk to them about why they like them.
Find out what their favorite YouTube channel is or if they like a specific YouTuber. Ask if you can watch with them sometime.
If they are a gamer, learn more about the games they’re playing and who they’re playing with, maybe even do something crazy like try to play with them.
If they’re spending a lot of time texting or using social media, make sure you know who they are interacting with regularly.
Overall, you want to get more involved with their online lives so that you can get a better sense of their tech IQ. How much do they already know? Do they seem to be handling it all confidently and with common sense or do you get the feeling they’re a bit naive about it all?
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The Most Important Tech Topics For You To Discuss With Your Teen
Once you’re ready to tackle those tougher tech talks, here are some of the most important things you want to cover with them:
- House tech rules and expectations
- Privacy issues and how to use privacy settings on their devices and social media accounts
- How to recognize phishing and avoid downloading malware
- Digital citizenship – how you should act and treat others online
- Online reputation – what kind of image are they cultivating online
- Inappropriate content and what to do if they come across it (yes, this means porn)
- Cyberbullying, trolls and other harmful online behavior
- How to determine a credible source online
- Coping with the comparison trap and FOMO (fear of missing out)
- What is and isn’t okay to share via text, in email or on social media (yes, this includes sexting)
And of course, the most important topic: NOTHING ONLINE IS EVERY TRULY DELETED
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Should I still monitor their online activity using parent control apps?
There are many different opinions about the pros and cons of monitoring our kids’ digital activities.
Some believe that it is spying and an invasion of privacy, which is more likely to cause our tweens and teens to be secretive.
And if you invest the time following the advice given above to foster an on-going and open conversation with your tween or teen, you don’t want to undermine all that effort by going behind their backs and snooping on them.
However, at the same time, giving our kids total freedom online, especially at first isn’t always wise either.
The better approach is to think about it like we do driving.
We don’t hand over the keys to our car and just let our kids start driving without some kind of education, training, and oversight.
In most cases, teenagers have to take driver’s ed and then spend a minimum of a year with a learner’s permit. During that year they are required to have adult supervision anytime they get behind the wheel.
Once they have proven themselves capable and responsible drivers, then they earn a full driver’s license and the ability to take to the open road independently.
Treat technology the same way. Cars are powerful machines that take time to learn how to handle competently and so are devices like computers and cell phones. Both are capable of causing significant harm.
When you first allow your tweens and teens access to computers, cell phones, and social media don’t hide the fact that you’ll be checking up on them. If you’re honest about it, then you’re not spying, you’re parenting.
How you choose to do this is up to you. There are some very easy to use parental control apps available that will allow you to monitor their activities and limit their usage without being obnoxiously intrusive. Or you can make sure that you have passwords to all devices and accounts and do spot checks sporadically.
But over time the goal is to move from monitoring your tweens and teens to mentoring them.
Let your tweens and teens know that as they gain more experience and consistently demonstrate they can handle technology maturely, then they’ll earn more freedom and privacy.
No one ever said parenting would be easy and technology can make it harder.
But it doesn’t have to.
How honest our tweens and teens are with us is a reflection of how openly we are willing to communicate with them.
We should never fear talking about anything with our kids, no matter how uncomfortable — What should really scare us are the ris
Still not feeling confident about tackling technology with your tweens and teens?
When is my child ready for a cell phone? Why is he so obsessed with Fornite? Is it okay for her to keep a phone in her room at night? My kid really wouldn’t send a nude selfie, would they?
There are so many questions when it comes to raising our kids with all this technology. With all this information it feels overwhelming. But you don’t have to let it drive you crazy, instead, learn how to make doing technology with your kids crazy easy.
SCREEN TIME SANITY: THE CRAZY EASY GUIDE TO DOING TECHNOLOGY WITH YOUR KIDS
Screen Time Sanity is a book written by two moms who were also stressed out, worried and So Over It. They knew they had to do something before technology totally ruined their relationships with their kids.
So, they combined tried and true parenting principles with some simple strategies and found a healthy way to balance all that technology and restore some peace to their homes. And you can too; they’ll show you how.
Just grab a copy of Screen Time Sanity: The Crazy Easy Guide To Doing Technology With Your Kids today! You can take back control; it’s never too late. Plus, when you buy the book, you also get access to their top secret resources webpage! It has links to all the helpful sites they mention in the book, a tech trends section that they always keep updated so you stay “in the know” on important topics (right now it’s filled with info on Fortnite), AND you’ll also be able to download their Family Tech Printable Bundle for free which includes social media and cell phone contracts, family tech rules and tech talk conversation starters for all ages.
ks and consequences of not talking to them. That’s how we become those clueless parents on the After School Specials. That’s how we end up asking ourselves “how could we not know?”
Meet the moms behind Sunshine & Hurricanes, Kira on the left (the geeky one) and Michelle on the right (the creative one). Between them, they have six kids ranging from two to fifteen!! So, yes, they’ve got this whole parenting thing covered from elementary school to high school.
They’re both Florida moms, so they know a thing or two about sunshine and hurricanes. On any given day in our lives, they can experience both, multiple times, and sometimes even simultaneously. Welcome to parenting, right?!
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE these resources from Sunshine & Hurricanes:
- Screen Time Sanity: The Crazy Easy Guide To Doing Technology With Your Kids
- Tech Rules for Teens and Tweens – Parenting Tools for Today’s World
- Family Technology Rules – Take Control of Tech Before Tech Takes Over Your Family