October 8, 2012
When it comes to kids and their online activities, the term parental controls has been replaced by parental monitoring. Children are more technologically savvy than ever before, and they can easily get around most of the controls that you put in place. If they have Internet access, all they have to do is Google something for more information. Furthermore, YouTube is becoming more popular each day for its entertaining content and for the fact that it often has step-by-step, how-to videos on virtually anything.
Young kids also know not only how to make cell phone calls and send text messages, they can download and use most smart phone applications. Overall, developing technical skills and gaining independence is beneficial to kids. However, as the saying goes, greater freedom comes with greater responsibility. That responsibility falls on the shoulders of parents, even as their kids protest against constant monitoring.
If you have children, here are five points to keep in mind.
1) Your first responsibility to your kids is to keep them safe. Do you feel comfortable being in complete control of your children’s access to information? Probably not, but your primary responsibility to shield them from harm means that you might have to take some drastic measures (at least in their minds) to protect them.
2) Good parenting means realizing that you can’t be your child’s friend, even if you have “friended” each other on Facebook. As parents, many of us have become so preoccupied with encouraging our children’s self-esteem and wanting to avoid conflict that sometimes we give in when we should stand our ground. Treating them as equals doesn’t do them any favors. Many child experts agree that young kids thrive on routines, consistency, and positive discipline. They need you to set clear boundaries and expectations.
3) Effective parental monitoring can open up the lines of communication and encourage mutual trust. Talk to your kids honestly. Explain that it’s not that you’re being “nosy” about their personal lives. The reality is that, as long as they put their personal information out there, it can be seen by anyone who searches for it. Their personal safety and even future job prospects are all dependent on their being smart online.
4) In most cases, parents really do know best. Kids and teens think they know what’s best for them and they’ll fight for their independence. But studies show that individuals do not reach intellectual and emotional maturity until a certain age, and that most kids have not yet developed the ability to think critically about some situations or, more importantly, to make the right decisions when it comes to interacting with others online and sharing their personal information.
5) Bullying and cyberbullying are serious problems. Since social networking became available to children and teens, they can send and receive texts, photos, videos, and other media, all of which can be used to tease and harass others. Despite awareness campaigns and recent media attention, cyberbullying continues to have a harmful effect on children and families.
Encouraging your kids to be open with you while you do the same with them can make parental monitoring of their activities feel less harsh and more loving. They’ll thank you for it later!