If you have a pre-teen or teenager, you've probably gotten a crash course in all things digital in recent years. With laptops, social media, and smart phones, teens are more plugged-in than ever, with instant access to information, entertainment, and communication. According to a recent McAfee study, teens are spending an average of five hours a day online. The study also sheds light on teens' online activities, concluding that teens are engaged in far more online interaction than their parents realize. Is this online behavior cause for concern? How should parents navigate what McAfee calls the "digital divide"?
Monitor Online Activity
The McAfee study points to troubling statistics about the lengths that teens will go to in order to hide their online activity from their parents. From clearing browser history to changing privacy settings, teens are tech-savvy about staying off of the parental radar. What should parents do? Continue to monitor, and be honest about it. Let teens know that you're checking in on their activity, and ask questions about their online habits. Talk to other parents, and encourage them to alert you if they notice concerning behaviors online.
Establish Online Rules
Draft "house rules" around social media sites. For younger teens, this may mean requiring that they "friend" parents on any social site that they belong to. Allow teens to set boundaries, also — for instance, respect their wishes if they ask you not to post on their page. Gaining their trust will allow you to stay involved and aware. Written contracts can be particularly effective with older teens. Detail expected online behaviors, and the consequences of misusing online privileges.
According to McAfee, 29% of parents feel overwhelmed by technology and simply hope for the best when it comes to their kids online. The best way to remedy this? Learn! Many community education programs offer classes and workshops about using social media. Some schools are now offering parent education nights to share information and solutions for online issues. If you're unsure, contact the administration of your local high school and inquire about education opportunities. Educators are dealing with technology every day, and most would be happy to help parents learn.
Staying connected with your teens and their online activity is key to navigating this new digital life. To read more about the McAfee findings, visit www.mcafee.com.