There are all kinds of families in the world. Whether it is the culture, traditions, or lifestyle that sets us all apart, there is one set of things that families all across the world share: rules. Sure, maybe they’re not the same ones, but every family has them. Recently though, many parents have taken cyber rules to the extreme out of fear that the internet may grow their children up too fast. I mean, let’s face it, this is the modern world and anything and everything is done on the web. While the internet may not be the most innocent and safe place (even for adults), there are some advantages to both you and your teen when having looser internet restrictions on your children.
Advantages for the teen: Downtime and Space
A close friend of mine recently moved out of state. We try to still stay in touch, but it seems impossible with the web restrictions her parents set for her. She is only allowed one hour a week on the computer. It may seem reasonable, but when you miss someone and are trying to catch up it might as well be a second a week. I personally think that teenagers should have the freedom to spend some time on the web and communicate with friends. It actually gives them some much needed space and a break from school work, sports practice, and many other things going on in their life. I wouldn’t let them spend 4 hours a day on the computer, but just a little downtime on the internet is all most kids want.
Your teen having some down time on the web will allow them to not only chat with missed friends, but let them catch up on the latest world and personal news. In today’s world the internet is a source of everything. Whether you want to look up horoscopes, investment tips, or just message a missed family member, online is the place to do that. As long as you make sure your kids are safely surfing the web, I don’t think more online access would be out of the question.
Advantages for the Parents: The Cyber Leash
So your kids are getting to the age where they are naturally wanting to be more independent. Along with gaining independence, comes the desire for things like a cellphone, more web access, and of course an account on a few beloved social networking sites. Such as Twitter, facebook, Tumblr, etc. I’m not blaming parents for being fearful of letting their children make account willy nilly all over the web. I mean, after the horror stories we’ve all heard in the media involving social networking sites, how could you blame them? You can’t restrict your kids forever though. So I’d like to talk about the first advantage of looser internet restrictions on your kids that I like to call “The Cyber Leash”.
I call this advantage The Cyber Leash because when your kids have social networking accounts, everything is public and you can see what they do online if you friend or follow them. It gives them independence while providing you with the comfort that they’re not doing anything they’re not supposed to. Like a leash, it gives them enough room to be independent, but you can always pull them back if they go too far. Don’t misunderstand. I am so not telling you to drive your kids crazy and read every single wall post and status; but checking up on things once in a while never hurt anybody. When I made a Facebook account two years ago, I didn’t even have it a week when I got those oh so casual friend requests from my family. At first it made me feel like they didn’t trust me, and I felt like they were checking up on me in a way. Well I was right about one thing. They were checking up on me. It took me time to realize that is not a bad thing though. Parents want to be involved in every aspect of your life, including your cyber social life.
Kids may feel uncomfortable friending their parents at first, because they may feel like you don’t trust them. So explain to them that trust is not the issue. Tell them that you simply want to be a part of every aspect of their life because you care about them so much. Explain to them that they may have more access and freedom to the internet, but you being able to check up on things once in a while is a deal breaker for that freedom. The internet and social networking sites are fabulous things; if they are used correctly, and by correctly, I mean safely.
Photo: SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget from Flickr