Many teenagers and young adults desire to showcase what they are wearing, eating, thinking, what they like to do during their free time, and to show off their new relationships – all online. However, internet safety continues to be an ever-growing concern, with parents often asking RIVER Educational Consulting about the safeguards of online media use. This Blog will answer some of your questions on how to approach conversations with children and young teens regarding the content they should or should not post online.
REC recommends the use of the Online Media App, BARK, to monitor safety of children. It is a paid service, but will grant you peace of mind, especially if your teenager tends to be a bit more conservative with sharing of her/his online profiles & activities.
Below are some articles & videos we recommend to parents that help to open the conversations about online safety with children & teenagers:
- A Local Tennessee newspaper reported about online safety using the BARK app. It is bland in nature, but seeks to explain BARK and its uses.
- **This one is the BIG article – that will made the most impact on your children. Caution: there are messages sent by pedophiles to this “11 year old” that are pretty graphic. Parents, we suggest deciding together if you should have your children read all of the messages. We do suggest reading some, as that will give them a baseline to know what type of behavior is joking around lightly and which is clearly NOT decent behavior.
- The following article references the App TikTok. It is bland in nature, but informative about the common sense use of the app.
- This article is a bit more intense and includes a video about TikTok.
5. Another article about staying vigilant regarding your child’s use of TikTok. https://www.scarymommy.com/parents-beware-dangers-tiktok/
- This article addresses a lack of censorship on TikTok. https://www.cbc.ca/kidsnews/post/5-not-so-great-things-about-tiktok-dangerous-challenges-censorship-security
- This article addresses the app of Instagram. In this article, the author discuses how nasty people can be – even when an account is set to private.
- This CNN article is pretty harsh, but if you read it and your child still wants to enter into instagram life, just make sure to monitor her/his account.
- This is a Beginner Agreement for online safety you may want to use with your child.
IMPACT of these Conversations
Once each article/video has been reviewed, we recommend that you discuss that your trust in each of your children is solid. However, let them know that their child/teenage minds are not fully developed and decisions aren’t always going to be sound. This is why conversations like this must be had. Explain to your children that mistakes, even online media mistakes, are a part of the learning-in-life process. Yet, if these conversations can help to force additional thought by your children before they post or respond to posts, some mistakes may not be made.
The articles above have spoken about pedophiles, how they blend into society like everyone else, and how they “train” you to do what they want without your conscious thought. We also urge you to take you conversations a step further and talk to your children about possible emotional and physical trauma from online media. Children and teenagers spend a great deal of time comparing themselves to others they see online, this ultimately can deteriorate your son’s/daughter’s self-worth and self-love. Heading off such impacts by having open conversations about body image, ideas of perfection, and real love for one self will have a big impact in the long run.
Using the BARK articles, you will be able to open up a conversation about human trafficking as a result of online connections. With some additional research, you will find plenty of other articles relaying stories of missing children and teenagers who may have had a link to online grooming and human trafficking through profiles they thought were children their own ages. The object of such conversations is not to frighten your children completely, but to make them understand that there are not always good people out there with their best interest at hand. With your help, they must learn to decipher which contacts are real and which ones are fake.
Lastly, the articles above will also help to open the discussion of possible early-onset encouragement for inappropriate human sexual expression – which can lead to trauma, emotional scarring and shutdown. This can be done via online “pruning” by older individuals, especially through the preface of “I dare you” or “truth or dare” games. Children, teenagers, and parents must be on the lookout for the beginnings of such conversations and put an end to them before they fully develop.
Once you feel that you have hosted your essential conversations as a family, and the children are aware of all the possible dangers of online usages, we suggest asking them again if they would like to access the particular media apps. Should your children wish to have such apps on their phones & tablets, download it together. Make sure to talk about the content that they are allowed to publish, and agree that at any point in time, either mom or dad are allowed to view everything on their phones without much contention (there will always be some).
As a parent myself and a respected professional in the educational and mental health fields, I often go further in my family discussions to include points of instruction on self-harm, suicidal ideation (thoughts of suicide), and addictive substances. We speak about how these negative coping strategies are subliminally placed in many music videos, statements, pictures, etc. I talk about how they can influence their developing minds and even encourage depression as “looking cool and fitting in” to their peer groups. We talk about the female body shape, thoughts of perfection, true to life people versus celebrity images, and more.
Should you have any questions, concerns, or comments, please email us at email@example.com.
-written by Tara M. Kfoury, MEd, PhD