It is important to monitor your children’s online activity and be prepared to talk to them about things they may see on the internet.

Establish Ground Rules

According to the National Cyber Security Alliance’s 2017 survey Keeping Up with Generation App: NCSA Parent/Teen Online Safety Survey, “28% of teens report that their household has no rules about their use of devices”. Of those families that do have rules in place over 70% of teens feel that those rules are effective. Be open about your concerns about your child’s online activity and work with them to establish rules. These rules should extend beyond just not using their devices at dinnertime and should include fair consequences for not following them. Make sure your rules are fair, based on your family’s values, and are focused on your child’s well-being.

Here are some common ground rules. Make sure to work together to establish rules that reflect your own family’s values:

Create specific times for screen time use. After school, after homework, and after dinner are good times for kids to unwind.

Agree on times to put the phone down. During dinner, before homework is complete, right before bedtime are good times to put the screen down and spend some face to face time as a family.

Reserve the right to pick up and review your children’s phones. You want to respect their privacy, but make sure they understand you want to be involved and understand what is happening in their digital life.

Review search history. Kids can be quick to understand how to clear their history and cache. Use this as an opportunity to not only teach about online safety but to also build trust.

Monitor Their Activity

This one may get some pushback from your teens as an invasion of privacy. Be clear about your concerns. Make sure they understand the things you are looking for (inappropriate content, cyberbullying) and why you are concerned. Look for social media and messaging apps and understand how your child is using those apps. Look through their YouTube and browser history with them and discuss any concerns that may arise.

Develop Their Strengths

Use this as an opportunity to develop your child’s strengths. Social intelligence, honesty, and perspective are important when being an online citizen. Being aware of the motives of others can be difficult to determine over the internet. Make sure your child is nimble with their thinking when engaging people online. Being open and honest about what they are doing online can help open communication with you. Explain that they are likely to encounter things online that they may disagree with or are not in line with their own values. Being able to look at different perspectives can help them be safer.

Talk To Them

Rules and monitoring can only go so far. Make sure you are listening to your children and talking to them.  They may encounter videos, memes, photos, and other content online that can be disturbing and confusing. Be open about topics that may come up and assure your children you are there for them.

Seek Help When Necessary has some great tips for helping your teens stay safe online. Beech Acres Parenting Center offers Parent Coaching to help you deal with various parenting challenges. Your first visit is FREE!