by Chris Taylor, MFT, Author “Back to Basics”
The risk posed by online predators to our sons and daughters is extraordinary. These men often pose as teens themselves and promise money, escape, and the attention that so many teens desperately crave. They have infiltrated every crevice of online life and are experts on how to appeal to the teen psyche. Many times I am asked by parents, “ how should I monitor my teens social media accounts and online usage?” These are the 3 rules that every parent must follow in order to keep their teens safe online
Parents need to be in control of online accounts. They should have the account type, usernames, and passwords. Parents should initially set up and monitor as needed. Safety overrides trust building when it comes to teens. True trust will be built over time as parents witness good choices being made. At that point their can be less oversight, which can increase as concerns arise. Also, I encourage parents to monitor online gaming conversations, as this is where teen boys are most susceptible. Parents need to move away from the delusion that a teen’s online presence is a right and instead define it as a privilege that is easily lost. Like my grandmother always said, “if you have nothing to hide then let me see.”
Time restrictions around technology use. Phones and devices should be turned in prior to bed. There is no reason a teen needs to have internet access after they are supposed to be asleep. They should be required to leave phones and devices plugged in to a charging station outside of their rooms. This will help parents reduce the time their teens are engaged with online activity and reduce the risk of being contacted by a predator.
Do not talk to strangers. Parents should teach their teens about the risks of engaging with unknown people online. For example, teaching them about cat-fishing (using fake profiles and pictures). How to understand warning signs (sounding too good to be true). Feeling pressure or coerced to meet or send detailed personal information. With human trafficking on the rise,, teens should watch educational videos on how these young people where exploited.
If a teen chooses to violate these rules then parents need to install monitoring software on all devices or risk losing the privilege. This would be a move away from establishing trust but is ultimately based on the teen’s choices and potential defiance. Remember, teens do not have a right to privacy, adults do. Make every attempt to express love by the ultimate desire to keep them safe. They may hate your for know but you know you will have the opportunity to love them forever. If lured by a predator you’re their day of hate may be their last day alive.