If any parent in 2019 says they know exactly what their teen is doing online, they are liars. I am just going to put that out there.
In the early teen years, I tried to police my children’s screen time and where they were going on the internet. It was hard work and not that effective.
The summer before my oldest entered 6th grade, I was researching those apps and devices that restrict internet access. My son very respectfully told me not to buy any of them because he and all of his friends knew how to work around them. It would be a waste of money. I guess I should have been glad for his honesty? But that really taught me an important lesson. I was trying to police something that he knows more about than I do.
My daughter has had more issues with social media than my son. Maybe it is a gender thing, or just their personalities? The teen girl uses the internet and social media to stay connected with friends she knows either online or in real life, while my son uses the internet and social media to foster friendships and learn new hobbies. The whole concept of internet friends, or IBFs as my daughter calls them, needs to be its own blog post for later.
Last summer, a parent friend asked me how I was going to police screen time for my children. I shared what we were going to do, and added that this was by no means the “right” way to do it, just what we decided on that works for our family. She wanted to prevent her teen from overindulging with screen time and only letting him use the computer in common areas of the house. But this level of policing makes it to where the teen never experiences natural consequences, and I believe in natural consequences. If a teen stays up too late on their phone, they will feel like crap the next day. And we can only hope that they remember this feeling the next time they want to do the same thing. That is the goal with natural consequences. If you never experience natural consequences, how will you learn what is good and not good for you?
As parents, we cannot be the police forever. More than policing, we need to give our teenagers strategies to live in this world of constant internet and social media. The best advice I give my own children? Think it through before you say or do something. This advice has always been good, but especially important in a world where everything they say or do is out there for everyone else to see. We all did stupid things when we were teens, but none of it was permanent. How you portray yourself in the online world could have serious consequences later in life.
One last piece of advice as we navigate this online world that we never experienced as teens. I tell my children before they put something online to ask themselves this question – would you want Mema to see that? (Mema is their grandmother). If the answer is no, then don’t post it.
None of us are experts in this area of parenting, so please share what you are doing to help your teen survive in this online world.
Want to chat about parenting in the teenage years? Check out the Let’s Talk Parenting link and get in touch. I would love to talk with you!