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Can You Monitor Your Teen’s Internet Use without Being Intrusive?

The internet is a great source of information and entertainment. It’s how we shop, how we research, and how we connect with other people. Adults aren’t the only ones spending time online, though — pre-teens and teens use the internet and online apps to communicate with others online, and they use them a lot.

According to a 2015 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 92% of teens report going online daily, and even pre-teens and younger kids have started using connected devices in higher numbers. So as your kids spend more time on the internet, how do you make sure they stay safe online without overstepping healthy boundaries?

The four tips below can help you teach your children how to use the internet safely and responsibly.

  1. Create a Family Media Plan

Talk with your teens and tweens about setting up a family media plan. This includes discussing screen-free areas in your home, acceptable screen time and unacceptable screen time, and appropriate online behaviors. Here are a few examples of common family rules:

  • Phones are turned in at night
  • Screen time isn’t allowed past a certain time
  • Phones aren’t allowed at the kitchen table
  • Computer time is allowed only after homework is completed
  • Certain information shouldn’t be shared online
  • Apps should be downloaded only with a parent’s permission

These rules can not only help your tween or teen be safer online, but give you a great opportunity to model good online behavior. By showing your kids that good online safety practices apply at all ages, you can make it clear that you aren’t enforcing unreasonable or overbearing rules.

  1. Teach Responsibility and Good Judgement

Teach your children to set limits and create boundaries for themselves on the internet. If kids are taught early on that internet use should come secondary to family time and school time, they will be less likely to abuse the web as they approach their teen years.

Remind your teen that using the internet responsibly means thinking before you post — they shouldn’t post their location, address, money information, or any other personal information. Teach them that quizzes and giveaways are often used to capture personal info, for instance, so they should never click on those types of pop-ups or ads.

Also, be clear about what appropriate online time looks like and how they should manage their online time. If your child has a test coming up the next week, help them plan their prep time and internet time so they can work hard and have some screen time during their downtime.

  1. Install and Use a Monitoring App or Filter

If you’ve decided that an internet monitoring app or a web filter is the best way to track what your teen or tween is posting to social accounts or texting their friends, it’s important to follow a few basic guidelines when you start:

  • Inform your teen or tween that you’ll be using a monitoring app or internet filter, and explain how it works. Being honest with your child from the start will help them avoid any feelings of you going behind their back.
  • Install a parental control program that is only as strict as is necessary. The program should run in the background on your child’s phone or computer, and your child can use their device as they normally would.
  • Review habits and behaviors with your kids. Taking time to review messages or internet use with your teen can help you identify how your child is spending time online and make sure they’re not receiving any dangerous messages or being bullied.
  1. Help Them Set Social Media Preferences

If your kids share pictures, videos or messages on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or other social media platforms, they may be unclear about who can see their posts. Take a moment to help your tween or teen set their privacy settings so they can easily restrict who they let see their information.

This simple step will help your child establish who can contact them, who can view their info and photos and who can see the messages and posts they publish.

Most tweens and young adults use social media and technology responsibly. They’ve grown up surrounded by the internet, but often, their technical knowledge can far exceed their judgement. By following these tips, you can help your children be better educated on how to conduct themselves online and you can keep a watchful eye on them without being too intrusive.

Contributor: Hilary Bird is a digital journalist who writes about the things that fascinate her the most: relationships, technology, and how they impact each other. As more and more people become more and more reliant on their tech devices, Hilary wants to help them stay safe and understand how these devices will reshape the way we communicate. 

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