Insta-Parenting: Keeping Kids Safe Online

insta-parentingIf you are a parent of a teen child, chances are you’ve worried about his or her social media use. How much time should he be spending online each day? Should you be tracking which sites he uses? How much privacy does he really need in a place that is potentially dangerous?

Luckily, we are here to help you with these tough decisions! Here are some guidelines for keeping your teens safe and sound in the online world.

Common Rooms Only

We suggest that you only allow your teen to access social media sites from common rooms in your home. In other words, no using Facebook or Instagram from their bedrooms. Your teens will likely balk at this rule, but it stands to reason that they would be more likely to engage in risky behavior behind their bedroom doors. Knowing that you, or any other member of the family, could approach at any moment could go a long way toward keeping your teen honest online. Plus, if you allow her to use her favorite sites in her room, you may never see her again!

Limit Screen Time

You and your family can decide how much screen time is appropriate, but it’s a good idea to put a cap on how much time your teen’s eyes are staring out into “The Cloud.” Further, the American Academy of Pediatrics has some guidelines available online of recommended screentime.  Many families feel that one hour is a good daily limit, and your kids can choose whether they want to use their hour all at once, or break it up into several smaller sections of time. Either way, what’s important is that you are consistent with whatever you decide.

Have The Privacy Talk

Even though your teens are probably more web-savvy than you are, it’s still important to let them know that all of their accounts must be private. This means that only people who they choose can access their information online. Public accounts have no such protection, and literally anyone can see their posts. Show them this example, where a 6th grade teacher taught her students how quickly public posts can go viral, and then supervise as they change the settings in each of their apps to update their privacy profile.

Be Friends First

Make it a rule that you will be “friends,” with them, or “follow” them on each and every one of their accounts. Sure, there are ways for your teens to block you from seeing certain things, but being involved in their general accounts will send the message that you are there, and you are watching what they are doing. Make sure to explain that you first want to keep them safe, but, that you are also genuinely interested in what they find important.

Overall, even though you are setting these limits, try not to make this a power struggle. Explain to your kids that their lives are valuable to you, and that you are being protective out of love. One day, they will look back and appreciate these efforts, but don’t expect that at the moment. Now, you’ll probably just get an eye-roll, the universal teenage sign for love.

If you would like to talk more about how to manage your teen’s online use, contact us. We are here to help!