Technology

The Importance of Internet Safety for Teens

by Lucie Hemmen on December 27, 2011

Guest Blog by Internet Expert Lori Getz

“It’s not you I don’t trust,  it’s everyone else!”

This is a phase teenagers tell me they ABSOULTELY HATE! Not only to they hate it, they don’t believe it to be true. And is it? Usually there is an element of truth but as a mom I can tell you that it’s not the WHOLE truth.

I live in the cyber-world as an Internet safety, security and ethics specialist. I spend my days working with parents, teachers and students trying to explain why the rules in the cyber-world are no different than those in the physical world… it just takes a bit of translation. But trust seems to come up in my line of work more than anything else. Teenagers feel that their online lives should be totally off limits to their parents and parents are ready to spy on their children in the online world much faster than in the physical world. I don’t see a lot of nanny cams in teenagers’ bedrooms but I see a ton of Net Nanny on computers.

Why do we feel as though trust in the cyber-world is different? Simple, we’re scared! It’s not our fault, we weren’t parents in this realm so therefore we are not sure HOW to parent here. We are inundated with stories of identity theft, cyber-bullying, and predators in the media so soon we begin to believe the pitfalls far outweigh the benefits. We see our children texting at the dinner table, Friending 10,000 people on Facebook and spending more time gaming online than playing outside. So we worry and soon we decide it’s the technology’s fault!

I love technology! I love the instant access to information and I think my relationships are richer because of it. But I use it to my advantage.  Let’s look at this a different way. Instead of focusing on the technology, let’s focus on the behavior for a moment. It’s not the cell phones fault that it was brought to the dinner table. It’s not the laptop’s fault that one child posts a nasty comment on another child’s wall. It not the Kinect’s fault that the baseball mitt hasn’t been picked up all year.

Sure- the devices are enticing, but so are drugs, alcohol and sex to a teenager. So what do we do as parents?  We educate, we talk, we ask questions, we set limitations and expectations.

For example:   What are you wearing? Where are you going? Who are you going with? What time will you be home? Sound familiar? I call this my Father’s Famous Four and they are the same questions we should be asking our children about their cyber-world.  Chapter 8 in Lucie’s book will get you up to speed with all the crucial safety bases.

When we start focusing on behavior, finding organic ways to have conversations about cyber-issues, and setting appropriate expectations, the issue of trust becomes simpler. The truth is, we shouldn’t trust them 100%. Their brains are still developing and the ability to use logic, reason and impulse control is still evolving. They need us to guide them and regularly check-in. When we do this it’s not spying, it’s  good ole fashion parenting!

Contributed by Lori Getz, M.A.

Lori Getz founded Cyber Education Consultants (CEC) in 2007. CEC is a parent resource center that provides education and training to teachers, students, and parents about internet safety and security. In addition, she has authored and developed an elementary school curriculum, Safety Kid on the Net, is a board member of the Institute for Responsible Online and Cell Phone Communication and writes a column for momlogic.com as their Internet Safety Expert.

To Learn More about Lori Getz and Cyber Education Consultants (CEC):
Visit Her Website: www.LoriGetz.com
Phone: 818-804-8232

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