Teens and Privacy in the Digital Age

Image 1 (1)This is a guest post by: Amy Williams is a journalist based in Southern California. As a mother of two, she hopes to use her experience as a parent to help other parents raise their children to be the best that they can be.

Access to media has altered how children of all ages interact with the world as well as deeply changing how parents connect, guide, and shape their teens’ lives. Having a smartphone and other electronic devices might seem like par for the course, but there are many issues to consider before handing one over to your teen.

The Issue of Safety and Convenience

Many teens receive smartphones from parents who are simply trying to stay connected to their children. It is a scary world out there, and parents want to know that their children are safe, regardless of what they are and who they are with.

Smartphones offer parents and teens a sense of security, as they are able to reach one another at any time of the day or night. While teens might not appreciate this aspect of using a smartphone, parents highly value the ability to instantly connect.

However, teens aren’t just connected to their parents; they are also connected to their friends and strangers that they come across on the internet. Both general groups pose dangers:

  • Of the more than forty million kids and teens with access to smartphones, approximately one-third experience cyberbullying. Only ten percent of them will report the cyberbullying to a trusted adult.
  • As teens grow and develop, they become more susceptible to peer pressure and rely on the opinions of peers more than parents.
  • Kids and teens have access to all kinds of content – including explicit media – when they go online. They often stumble on inappropriate content while looking for something else.

The Issue of Responsibility

Determining if a teen is ready for the privilege of using a smartphone, parents can evaluate current behavior to make a determination. Questions parents can ask themselves about their teens’ efforts at being responsible could include:

  • Does my teen keep his or her grades up in school?
  • Does he or she regularly complete and turn in homework?
  • Are chores done in a timely manner and without complaint?
  • Are his or her current possessions in good working order?
  • Does my teen tend to lose possessions?
  • What other areas has my teen shown that he or she is responsible?

The answers to these questions will help parents figure out how to approach their teens’ desires to have a smartphone for regular use.

The Issue of Privacy

If they can handle the responsibilities that come with smartphone access, teens will want to use that access as a sign of independence. They may balk at the idea that their parents are monitoring their actions online.

However, the fact remains that there is no such thing as privacy online. It is the responsibility of parents to help their teens navigate the web, and it can get quite complicated.

There are two important considerations for parents, which include creating a cell phone contract with their teens and installing monitoring software for each electronic device that their teens use. A cell phone contract will help parents and teens hash out the responsibilities and expectations that come with having a smartphone, including manners, safety, privacy, online behavior, consequences, and how parents will be available to help. Monitoring software can be used to help keep teens safe, adjusting the contract as necessary.

Both of these actions will help parents and teens cultivate open communication regarding what it means for teens to have consistent smartphone access. This type of communication will help teens grow and develop while maintaining a strong bond between parents and their kids.

This is a guest post by: Amy Williams is a journalist based in Southern California. As a mother of two, she hopes to use her experience as a parent to help other parents raise their children to be the best that they can be.


One Response to “Teens and Privacy in the Digital Age”

  1. Suzanne Holt
    August 23, 2015 at 3:20 am #

    As I have told my kids many times, even if I trust you, I do not trust the internet. Technology is both a blessing and a bane to parenting. Thanks for the good suggestions!

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