Wondering what your kids are doing online is fair game. Just like you ask your child where they’re going when they leave the house, the same is true for the Internet. Kids are safer when we have an idea of their whereabouts. Most parents would agree with this, even if they don’t act on it. In fact, an Intel Security study concluded that while 79% of parents are worried about online safety, only 60% actually keep track of online behavior.
In fact, worry about response to online issues such as cyberbullying and sexting with anger or fear is the number one reason kids don’t seek parents’ guidance. A recent study presented at the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing highlighted research with 136 parent/teen pairs. Teens regularly logged their online experiences for eight weeks. Incidents were grouped into four categories: information breaches, online harassment, sexual solicitations and exposure to explicit content. Parents and teens documented how they reacted to these events.
The kicker? Only one out of ever seven incidents was reported by both parent and teen, meaning most of the time, parents were left out of the loop. Very few of these kids ended up sharing their experiences with their parents for the same reason: Fear of over-reaction. But research also shows that keeping an open conversation with our children about their digital lives is one of the best ways to keep them safe.
How to Talk to Your Child About Their Online Life
Listen, Don’t Talk: Withhold snap judgments, even if you’re freaking out on the inside. Michelle Icard, author of Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience Middle School Years, advises parents to play it cool when communicating hot-button topics with tweens and teens. She refers to the calm demeanor as “Botox brow” (no injections required).
Avoid Digital Grounding: Studies also show that one of the main reasons teens fail to talk to their parents about online issues is that parents will take their digital devices away.
Know What’s at Stake: Research reveals that teens whose parents have talked to them “a lot” about online safety are less likely to consider meeting face-to-face with someone they met on the Internet.