There have been many debates on how old you should let your kids get before you allow them to start accessing the internet. While this is a big issue, unfortunately one of the larger ones is how to tackle the subject of internet safety when they get to their teens. With the boundaries already being blurred between their privacy and safety in other areas during their teens it is difficult to know how much you should step in when it comes to your child's safety online.
Why is talking to my teen about internet safety so important ?
There are many different reasons to talk to your teen about internet safety and although it is never going to be an easy conversation to have - it is an important one. The more sophisticated internet restrictions get the more sophisticated the people that want to break them become.
They may not know the dangers
It is easy to assume that your internet savvy teenager knows all of the dangers facing them the moment they log on but this isn't always the case. Social networking is especially tricky as they will see it as a way to make new friends online without realising the lengths some people will go to to pretend they are someone they are not.
It is up to you as a parent
Although schools are very good nowadays about pointing out internet dangers when it really comes down to it - it is your responsibility. As a parent if you are going to let them access the internet in your home you have an obligation to ensure that they are doing it safely and carrying on that safety in practise when they use the internet elsewhere.
They WILL feel comfortable talking to you
Your children are much more likely to feel comfortable discussing the sensitive and delicate nature of internet safety with you rather than a teacher or someone else. They will also know that you more than anyone will have their best interests at heart and won't just be nagging them.
What signs to look for if they’re in trouble online?
After making your teenager aware of all of the dangers that may face them online it can be easy to think that is where this ends and they will now be fine. Even if you have sat with them and extensively discussed privacy and what they should do if they are getting bullied online they can still get themselves into trouble. There are a few telltale signs you can look out for to show that your teenager may be in trouble online.
What if they need to access the computer at the same time ?
This one can be a tricky one to distinguish because it is likely that the first thing most teenagers will want to do is get online when they come home. However if they seem particularly obsessed with making sure they are online the exact same time every day the likelihood is they are speaking to someone quite controlling.
What if they become secretive ?
At the end of the day it is going to be down to you as a parent how much privacy you give your teen online. Some parents will only let their teens use the internet if they give them their passwords and some let them have full privacy. Whatever level this works at for you as a family if you notice your teenager becoming more secretive this could be a big indicator that something sinister is going on.
Important tips to give them:
Never under ANY circumstances arrange to meet up with someone online unless they know them already
Do not give away any personal details about themselves or their private number.
Be careful of emails and messages that do not look right or that they have come from the person they think they are speaking to
Always discuss any concerns about cyber bullying with you and then maybe the police - laws are a lot stricter now and something CAN be done.