As of February 2015, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center, 34.4% of teenagers in a high school in the U.S said that at one point in their life, they had been victims of cyberbullying. Today, teenagers and young adults have the ability to reach multidtudes of different social media platforms as well as personal devices and cellphones. Teaching teens to have a positive and appropriate digital footprint is extremely important for parents. Children should also be aware of how to deal with a cyberbully if they happen to come across one.
The access that teens have to electronic media across, in some cases, multiple devices has made parenting more complex than it was in the past, at least technologically-speaking. It can be difficult for parents to know how to navigate the wide range of electronic devices that kids of all ages now have access to.
Just like teaching kids how to safely cross the street, parents have an obligation to teach kids how to behave and stay safe online as technology becomes more accessible to everyone.
Advantages of Limiting of Screen Time
One of the most important actions that parents can take is to limit screen time as children grow and develop. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents allow no screen time for kids under two years of age.
As children get older, parents can increase exposure using the “One in Four Rule,” which specifies one daily hour of screen per every four years. For example, if a child is four, one hour of screen time would be appropriate per day. When that child approaches eight years of age, that hour can be increased to two.
There are many advantages to limiting screen time across electronic devices.
● Parents can be tuned in to what kids are exposed to on TV and on electronic devices.
● Parents and their children can discuss what they are watching and what the subtle and obvious media messages appear in their favorite shows.
● Kids and teens have more time and attention to devote to more active and meaningful pursuits, like school work, volunteering, part-time work, and social interaction.
Helping Kids Deal with Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is a serious problem that affects up to one-third of the children who have access to the internet. Cyberbullies can cause long-term harm to kids and teens of all ages through hurtful messages via text, email, social media outlets, or otherwise online.
Parents can take positive action to help their children deal with cyberbullies.
● Communicate with your kids. Although the statistics are that only 1 in 10 children who experience cyberbullying tell a trusted adult, it is essential for parents to help their kids feel comfortable about coming to them with difficult issues.
● Take your teen seriously and act. Contact the cyberbully's parents to talk about what is happening online, block that user, and talk with school officials about what is happening.
● Teach kids how to deal with cyberbullies. Teens who try to fight cyberbullies by acting in kind or trying to defend themselves tend to complicate the issue. Instead, parents and teens can encourage friends to help stand up for targeted teens.
Teaching Teens to Protect Themselves Online
There are many ways that parents can help prepare their teens to stay safe online.
● Parents need to stay educated on developing technologies - like Kik, Snapchat, and Instagram - that change frequently and that teens love to use.
● Put restrictions in place on mobile devices. Many apps require that users be at least thirteen years of age, but some state that users need to be seventeen years old. Set downloads to age-appropriate downloads to keep kids from coming across new technologies.
● Install monitoring software. Teens need to understand that nothing that they do online is private and that parents have an obligation to keep their kids safe online. Monitoring software keeps communication open between parents and teens.
● Develop a cell phone contract with teens. This contract needs to spell out the expectations, responsibilities, and consequences involved in teens using a smartphone on a regular basis, including the reality of monitoring software.
● Take electronic devices from kid and teens at or before bedtime. If the devices need to charge in the parent's bedroom, this gives parents a chance to look them over on a regular basis.
The variety of technology that kids and teens are exposed to on a daily basis require parenting techniques that are vastly different from past generations. Embracing the change that technology requires, even in our parenting styles, can help keep our kids safe online.