guest post by Amy Williams
Do you believe a parent should be held accountable for their teen’s online behavior?
Some local governments do. They are beginning to press charges against parents of children who torment others with technology. In the state of Georgia, an appeals court case has prosecuted two sets of parents for their childrens’ cyberbullying.
With the advance of dangers and risks like sexting, cyberbullying, and online predators, many parents are left to question how much privacy a teen deserves.
A Teen’s Need For Privacy
As children mature, they naturally begin to form their own identities. This phase often occurs during adolescence when friends become more important and children strive to differentiate themselves from their parents. Teens begin to seek out new experiences in order to define their personalities and what they stand for.
According to many researchers, the teenage brain is anything but mature. Science is proving that human brains continue growing until the mid 20s. During this process, the prefrontal cortex is still a work in progress.
This is important to understand, because this frontal lobe controls emotions, judgment, and risk assessments. This region of the brain is also being exposed to a variety of hormones and emotions which influence how the prefrontal cortex functions.
With all the biological changes, it’s natural for a son or daughter to want a little privacy. Teens tend to pull away from the family which can leave parents in the dark when it comes to their child’s safety. If parent’s notice a distinct change in their child’s demeanor and behavior, privacy can quickly become a hot issue.
The Teen Privacy Debate
The days of searching for a hidden diary are long gone. Privacy that was once easy to achieve is now only a fleeting idea. Technology has changed the landscape of concealment and in today’s surveillance rich environment, many people believe that privacy is only an illusion.
Teens need to be conscious that almost everything they do has the possibility to be made public. Everyone is under the watchful eyes of cameras at school, intersections, and even while purchasing their favorite iced mochas. Bank accounts, telephone records, and Internet usage is all tracked and stored on the Internet forever.
Every post, message, and image has the possibility to hurt a teen’s future prospects.
This reality is frightening for parents, because the majority of teens overshare private or questionable material online. The teen brain lacks the development and foresight to think ahead. Some are unable to process how a compromising photo or colorful language can haunt them well into their adult years.
This quest to protect children can encourage parents to cross a line and invade their teen’s need for privacy. Sneaking around and spying on a child’s devices (cell phones, tablets, and computers) might allow a glimpse into his behaviors. Unfortunately, it almost always results in a lack of trust between both parties and breaks down all effective communication.
How To Monitor Without Overstepping Boundaries
One solution to avoid a communication breakdown is to actively monitor a teen’s Internet use. Here are 8 methods to encourage communication and safe technology use:
Teach and model acceptable etiquette for Social Media. Explain acceptable online behavior and why it is important.
Encourage open dialogue. Start conversations and make it a point to listen without lecturing.
Carve aside time to bond. Family dinners, fun days, or game nights are great ways to put family first. Don’t underestimate the important role a parent still plays.
Develop a technology plan.
Designate certain hours that devices are allowed to be used. Many families shut down from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. to allow a rest from technology.
Allow teens and children to use their devices in open areas, but not behind closed doors.
Create a no phone dinner policy. Use this time to talk and connect.
Have zero tolerance for cyberbullying, sexting, or inappropriate use of technology.
Remember people are naturally prone to making mistakes. Afterall, we are human. Parents need to guide their teens on effective ways to handle adversity.
Be aware of current trends. Stay up to date on possible threats and popular apps a teen uses. Tindr and YikYak are a few apps that can be dangerous.
Implement monitoring software to stay updated on all texts, messages, and images posted. Simply install an app for convenient access to streamline all a teen’s Social Media and cell phone activity.
Parents do play a vital role in a teen’s life- even when the adolescent refuses to acknowledge their importance.
In our social and connected society, parents need to be aware that they can be held accountable for their teen’s indiscretions. This could range anywhere from prosecution to being fined $114 for every cyberbullying threat (if you live in Wisconsin). Awareness and open communication can be the key to keeping a teen’s technology use on track while encouraging privacy.
Hopefully, these techniques will avoid any unwelcome trials and errors.
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