Parenting in the age of social media - The Explorer: Columns

Parenting in the age of social media

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Posted: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 4:00 am

As a parent, worry rarely goes away. Are they safe? Have you done enough to make sure they are on the right path to success? Are there people out there who can hurt them?

Living in the age of technology has its advantages, but when it comes to parenting, it also provides a completely new avenue of fear. This level of fear is hard to describe, but it recently happened to my family.

There is a moment where your heart stops due to some very disturbing news. For me, that moment came when my teenage daughter told me she had gone to meet a strange man she met online. To make it worse, she did not go meet him at a public place, instead she agreed to go meet him at his apartment.

She wasn’t hurt, nothing happened, but in the end, I am left wondering how informed we as parents are when it comes to social media. There are so many options for today’s teenagers that it is hard to keep up with what’s out there. You have the most popular ones such as Facebook and Twitter, but there are others such as Meetme.com, which provides a forum for anyone between the ages of 13 and 40 to get together.

According to some current statistics, 95 percent of all teenagers between 12 and 17 are now online and 80 percent of those online teens are users of social media sites.

I found out what my daughter was doing because I periodically look at her computer. I ask for her passwords to every site she is on, and I look through the messages and text.

There is often discussion about how much privacy a teenager should have. For me, I’ve read too many police reports and written too many stories about teenagers getting themselves into trouble, and a lot of these horror stories start with predators online who are part of the many social websites that are out there. Because of this knowledge, I can say I will never believe you should give your child too much privacy when it comes to their online activities.

After reading through the site my daughter had became a part of, I also did some online research for reviews and information on how safe it is.

The one story that stood out the most involved a young girl my daughter’s age, and a strange older man. The man got the girl to meet him, then proceeded to set her on fire because he thought it was funny. The girl was able to escape, but what if she hadn’t?

For me, the same question came up. What if? 

Let’s face it, besides these social media sites that are like a playground for predators, we live in a society where our teenage daughters have a ton of pressure on them. They need to be skinny, keep up grades, follow rules at home, have a social life, and most of all, they think they have to have a boyfriend.

It is up to us as parents to teach them that a boyfriend isn’t what makes them complete, that making good decisions while participating in online social media sites is important and that their safety trumps their privacy.

If your child is active online, here are some tips for parents.

1. Teach your child about online safety basics and what kind of personal information should be kept private. 

2. Check your child’s privacy settings to restrict access and postings.

3. Discuss the harmful effects of social networks with your child. Be sure they understand what expectations you have for their online behavior and what consequences they will face (both in the household and in the outside world) should they stray away from those. 

4. Start your own account on the same websites and let your child know you’re there. 

5. Review your child’s friend list and ask questions if you see a friend unfamiliar to you.

7. Ask your child to refrain from posting photographs. Photos of children may be targets for pedophiles.

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Welcome to the discussion.

2 comments:

  • John J Flanagan posted at 8:31 pm on Thu, Dec 6, 2012.

    John J Flanagan Posts: 33

    By the grace of God your child is safe now, but you must be sure to keep a vigilant watch over her. All parents know their children keep some things to themselves and their friends, and will not discuss some of their feelings, values and beliefs with parents. They want to maintain some independence even though they are often unable to make prudent decisions. I would suggest you spend more time with your daughter, more communication, more mother and daughter conversation, day trips, and that you do not neglect her spiritual life either. Ground her in the Christian faith by weekly attendance and worship. The world can be a dangerous place, as you now realize, and you should do all you can pro-actively from now on, thinking forward, and do not worry about past parental mistakes.

     
  • Ron posted at 11:34 am on Wed, Dec 5, 2012.

    Ron Posts: 5

    I had my grandchildren read your column this morning and we had a discussion. Nic thought you were a very protective mother. Emily thought your daughter did a dumb thing. Either way we used your words as a training tool today and they were helpful.

    Ron

     

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