How far would you go to ensure your teen’s safety?

Whether we are free range or helicopter parents, we ultimately desire to keep our children safe. The teen years are complex to say the least where this stage of awkward development dunks our children into a pool of hormones, fluctuating emotions, and peer pressure. To compound matters we have to contend with social media and technology.

A recent episode on a sitcom highlighted this dilemma. The episode showed a concerned father learning how to make scannable copies of his daughter’s fingerprints so he could gain access to her cell phone. While my children were appalled (and enthralled at the same time), I was mesmerized by this character’s determination and ingenuity.

Granted, this example was a manufactured piece of comedy, but it highlights the desperation parents feel when we are worried about a teen’s well being.

The Need For Privacy

Privacy becomes an even more important issue when a child strives to form his or her own self-identity. This occurs during adolescence as a teen begins to look to peer groups for support and desire their own private space. The act of separating themselves from parents is preparing them for adulthood, but it doesn’t make it any easier for us.

These feelings are compounded when teens leave us out of the loop. Just watching the six o’clock news about rioting, K2, sexting, cyberbullying or bullying over other kid’s body image,and teen suicide is enough to send us into panic mode as we worry about what our teens are facing. Similar to the sleuthing father mentioned above, many modern parents turn to a child’s love for social media to secretly gather information.

Using Social Media To Be Informed

It is estimated that almost 70% of parents are worried about how a teen manages their online reputation, while 72% of parents are concerned that their child’s digital presence will impact their future endeavours. A recent study by the Education Database Online estimates that nearly half of parents join Facebook to spy on their children. They found most, all except a mere 7%, of this group looks at their child’s profile everyday, scrolls through status updates, pays attention to location check-ins, and views photos of their child.

Many parents do have a reason to be concerned when it comes to social media, because very few teens comprehend the permanence or public qualities the Internet harbors. Surprisingly, parents are not alone when it comes to scoping the Internet for information. Potential employers, colleges, and even the authorities are taking notice when teens blindly share incriminating or degrading information online. This raises the question if parents should  be spying on their teens using social media.

The Difference Between Spying And Monitoring

It ultimately boils down to how we define spying. Spying is done behind someone’s back and usually results in a hostile environment that breaks down all communication. These acts tend to increase secrecy and can cause the parent-child relationship to crumble.

Monitoring a teen, however, is an honest approach that many parents favor. This method doesn’t involve covert efforts, because it relies on open communication while allowing teens the privacy they crave. This allows teens the opportunity to learn ways to safely navigate the world of social media without forcing parents to cross the line.

8 Ways Modern Parents Use Media To Support Teen Privacy

Unfortunately, we lack the ability to control every aspect of our teen’s world- including the digital universe. However, we do have the ability to play a vital role in our teen’s life and use media effectively in our parenting role.

Here are 8 ways parents can harness the power of technology the right way:

  • Teach social media etiquette early.

  • Be upfront with your child. Inform him that you will be checking his social media accounts from time to time.

  • Use headlines and current events to bring up sensitive subjects like sexting or cyberbullying to have a conversation.

  • Scaffold social media privileges with the understanding that you will be monitoring his texts and online interactions. As your teen demonstrates good choices, let him know you noticed, and slowly step back from monitoring his accounts.

  • Use social media to connect with your teen. Play a game or simply leave a message once in awhile- let him know you aren’t only there to spy on him.

  • Help teens set their privacy settings to keep his information secure.

  • Limit data plans. A recent study showed this was the greatest deterrent to sexting! If he needs to be cautious about his data usage, he will be more careful about what he posts.

  • Rely on apps or programs to make monitoring cell phones and social media easier.

Our job is to protect them and make sure they grow up with love and integrity. We should have the right tools in place and work hard to raise our children in this Modern world.