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Wichita Falls Living Magazine

Tech Safety for Teens

Technology can be a scary thing full of unknown risks and opportunities to be tempted by sin.  It can also be an invaluable tool for knowledge and social connection.  Navigating these waters can be tough.  Teaching a teen to safely navigate them can be even more daunting. 

According to an NPR article, the majority, 89%, of security apps 
focus on parental control by blocking and monitoring teens' online activities instead of having them be an active part in setting their boundaries.  As parents, we need to teach them how to have healthy, safe habits, not just shield them from the dangers.  Use this tool to create a family media plan to set goals and rules for screentime.  

 Here are 5 Internet Safety Tips from Scholastic to discuss with your teen as you make your media plan, or just as a good conversation starter:

  1. Keep It Real: It may sound totally lame to a teen’s ears, but following the Golden Rule when social networking is the best way to keep from being bullied or harassed. Research has shown that those who harass others online often become victims of harassment themselves. Encourage your kids to avoid trouble by being themselves, being honest, and treating others with respect — just like they would in the real world.
  2. Protect Your Passwords: Kids are never too old to be reminded that passwords should never be shared with anyone, even friends. The strongest passwords are combinations of letters and numbers and don’t include names or other identifiable information that can be easily guessed. Promote safety while respecting your kids’ privacy by inviting them to seal their passwords in an envelope and promise to open it only in an emergency.
  3. Post With Caution: Posting personal information or inappropriate messages can put kids at risk with strangers as well as friends. Once a message or picture is e-mailed or posted, it’s almost impossible to get it back. Friends break up, but a picture on the Internet is forever. If they have profiles on networking sites like Facebook or Tumblr, remind your kids that whatever they post becomes public. Anything they wouldn’t want a stranger — or their college advisor — to see should be kept offline.
  4. Keep It Clean: Talking about sex or sharing explicit images online may sound like fun, but it can lead to anything from embarrassment among friends to a predator’s “grooming” (online stalking). And in the case of photos, it’s actually illegal. If your kids are on the receiving end of sexual messages or images, the first thing they should do is tell you or another adult. Together you can contact the police and/or report it to
  5. Don’t Meet Online Friends Offline: The fact is, there’s no way to be sure that someone your child met online is really who they say they are. And once they meet in person, your child can be in actual real-world danger. So why do it? If you know your kids are going to do it anyway, however, remind them to always bring friends along and let you or another trusted adult know where they’ll be.focus on parental control by blocking and monitoring teens' online activities.

 So how do we, as parents, keep our kids safe and train them to make wise choices online?  Look for Apps and devices that let your teen feel independent but still gives you the ultimate authority.  Gabby is a great (and affordable) option for a teen phone that looks like a smartphone with essential apps but doesn't have internet, app store or social media.  Google Family Link is a great option for setting boundaries of screentime, approving downloads, GPS location and more.  Just be sure to have a discussion with your teen when setting up any security app so they know your expectations and they are part of the process.  If they have ownership from the beginning, they will be more likely to stick to the rules willingly and feel they have some independence.
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