Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

It’s really hard keeping teens safe online in today’s always-connected age. While I’d love to say I’m the perfect role model who has limited screen time, turns off the phone at night, and takes breaks, who are we kidding? I’m as addicted to social media as the next person, and what’s worse, I own a social media and content marketing company, so it’s an all-day thing for me.

Keeping teens safe online is much more complicated in today’s app-infested world. When Kira was a teenager, social media was new. This was 12 or so years ago, and MySpace was the platform of choice. There wasn’t Twitter, Facebook, Kik, Snapchat, or any of the other platforms we now have to worry about. When Kira asked if she could have a MySpace account, we said no way. She made one anyway, and we’d have never known if she hadn’t accidentally forgotten to log out.

We did all the right stuff when she was a teenager – cell phone off and out of the room at night, computer in the living room, and lots of dinner table conversations. Fast forward a dozen years to the second round of teenagers, and it’s a totally different environment. We don’t have a family computer; everyone has their own laptop. The kids have cell phones that aren’t just tendinitis-inducing flip phones but actual mini computers that connect to everything. Everyone – including the kids’ grandparents – are online.

I’m Not a Surveillance Company

Here’s the thing we learned the hard way: they’re going to find a way to be online. They’ll use a friend’s phone, create a profile from a friend’s house, or simply be exposed to it when they go to school. I’m not interested in raising my kids in a bubble, and I don’t want to be one of those parents who hack their way into their teenagers accounts or find out usernames and passwords on the sly so that I can spy on them.  That’s a pretty unhealthy approach, and I don’t want to be a surveillance company spying on my own teens.

I do want my teenngers to understand the ethics and responsibilities of being active online, and I desperately want them to be aware of the dangers of cyberbullying, identity theft, phishing, and malware. So where do we start? How do you keep a teen safe in this environment? How do you teach them smart online habits and help them recognize cyberbullying, phishing, and other threats?

It still starts with conversations at the dinner table.

Talk to your kids. Really. Talk to your kids.

I mean it.

Talk to your kids.

 

You may not be able to solve every problem with a conversation, but you can certainly open the door with conversation.

Online Safety Resources

For more information about keeping teens safe online, visit:

Stay Safe Online

StopBullying.Gov

MediaSmarts

Protect Your Kids from Cyberbullying

Raising Kids in the Always-Connected Age