The world has changed exponentially over the last century. As technology has developed, it has created ways to develop new and better technology, creating a society where gadgets become outdated almost as soon as they hit the shelves.
With these accelerated developments, the world becomes more accessible, both the good and bad aspects. Needless to say, the capabilities of the iPhone 7 far exceed what we could do on a Nokia phone in the late 1990s. The advancement in this mode of communication requires the same communication efforts at home.
To help your teen navigate the world of technology, you will need to have open and frank discussions about proper conduct, safety, and what to do when something goes wrong.
When the Internet became a household staple in the 1990s, public service announcement campaigns and school education sessions about Internet safety became the norm. We reiterated the importance of not sharing personal information and were hesitant to purchase anything from an online store. Over the past twenty years, we have become much more open with our Internet information. Social media has shifted how we use the internet and how much we are willing to share.
Regardless of how commonplace Internet communication has become, it is still important to discuss internet safety with your teen. Reiterate the importance of not sharing compromising photos online or via social media channels. Specific information about your home or where you live should stay offline. Photos and quips about being on vacation should not be posted until everyone returns home.
When a teen gets into trouble online, usually their first reaction will be to erase everything and not tell their parents about it. Tell them the importance of keeping records and screen captures for review if a situation arises. Furthermore, if they get to a dark corner of the Internet, they should inform you immediately.
The Internet can be both a useful tool and a destructive weapon. It is your responsibility to discuss the dangers and repercussions of cyberbullying from both the side of the recipient and the bully. Many teens are not aware that even apps that delete everything at the end of a conversation have a central storage feature that can be accessed by the company in the event of a crime. Cyberbullying can lead to death and tragedy.
It is also important to have an open door policy with your teen when it comes to reporting cyberbullying events. Letting them know that there will be no repercussions for sharing an event that occurred will help foster open communication. If your child is being bullied, they need to let you know. It can be tempting to try and solve this problem for your child without their input, but listening to their thoughts and asking for their solutions is integral to open communication.
Social Media Appearances
While on the topic of using technology safely, be sure to touch on the mental health implications associated with social media use. Social media has been linked to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem in teenagers. How people portray themselves on social media is often a happy snapshot that does not accurately depict their overall experience. Teens who see a barrage of constantly happy, successful, and well-filtered individuals can feel left out, inadequate, and lonely.
Talk to your teen about how people portray themselves online, and how this effect is similar to airbrushing in advertising. Tie your talk into real-world conversations in which you or your child may have shown a happy face online when something hard was happening at home. The more you can do to humanize the social media experience, the better.