With knowledge of the range of troubles adolescents and teens can find themselves in, it makes sense to be aware of the kinds of activities your kids are involved in, be it at school, their favourite hangouts or online.
As an educator who has worked with youth in computer labs, my particular set of concerns relates largely to online activity.
I have witnessed numerous students copy and paste entire articles into their research papers and quietly tune out when the inevitable plagiarism talk comes up.
We, at We Trust, have been floored, in the lab, when watching kids log onto their Facebook profiles and, without any apparent sense of self consciousness, proceed to post lewd comments as well as extremely inappropriate profile names.
Being safe online is not a tremendous concern to many young internet users.
Adolescents and teens are particularly at risk for not realising the damage that can unfold.
Suspicion on your part does not mean guilty for the child. But if your child is unable to discuss what they are engaged with in their online activity, it might be time for you to have a look.
Children also have access to the internet at school or their friend’s homes and they can be very skilled at finding their ways around parental and other types of blocks.
Scanning internet history. This is one of the first steps of any investigation of your child’s online activities you might want to pursue.
I would recommend not being alarmist about what you initially find, but use it to frame a conversation with your child about what constitutes safe online behaviour.
Visiting certain sites may be illegal for them as well as put the entire family at risk.
Looking at the history of websites visited is, however, only one potential source of clues. Internet history can easily be erased and any internet savvy teen is probably aware of this.
The World of Social Media
Social networking these days is popular for almost every age range.
Not every child wants to be connected with their parents through Facebook though.
Have an open talk with your child about social networking sites before you decide to snoop.
I never find it advisable to actually go digging about for your kid’s online profile, unless someone has warned you about suspicious content they saw posted or unless you believe that your child may be interacting with these sites in a way that may be socially, or otherwise, damaging.
Approach a discussion with your child about how carefully they may be handling information they post online.
Most social networking sites (if not all) give the user the option to make their profiles private, but from my experience in the school computer labs, kids often underestimate how very public their profiles are and don’t often consider making their profile private for the sake of their own safety.
Any indications of your child being involved in Cyber bullying is a valid reason to address the issue and to snoop.
Cyber bullying is not a matter of free speech. It is a recognisable form of harassment and in some states already, a punishable offence.
Dependent on what state you live in, you as the parent may be left with a fine, find your child suspended, receiving ‘appropriate’ punishment from school officials or, in the most extreme case, charged with a felony.
Youngsters taking to the keyboard to ‘anonymously’ blow off some steam or continue severe playground teasing antics constitutes a potentially punishable offence, particularly if threatening behaviour is indicated in the words.
If your child is being exposed to cyber bullying or may be the cyberbully, you the parent should know before it gets extremely out of hand and you find yourself in discussions with school officials or law enforcement.
Talk with Your Children
Before you take the step of snooping and spying, talk with your kids.
Remember, their defensive posture doesn’t always indicate that they have something to hide but an unwillingness on their part to share anything whatsoever with you might need to be examined.
Kids, like any humans, can get themselves in the difficult situations. As a parent, you would hope to prevent anything terrible from occurring, but your role as protector can only go so far.
Be willing to serve as their guide, as well as learn as much as you need to about the specific concerns and suspicions that are leading you to spy.
While some parents hesitate to spy, for fear of breaking the trust bond with their kids, the temporary sacrifice of that bond can be worth it. It may take time, but your kids will forgive you.
Remember too that hyper vigilance will certainly not help any situation and develop a sense for how to appropriately handle your suspicions and the situation you are faced with.
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