THE TEEN BRAIN IS HARD WIRED
“They have a brain that is wired for what in psychology is called seeking behaviour, the kind of thing that a google search gives you, something new, something stimulating, something different.”
- Dr. Sherry Turkle
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
We had a few incredible presentations last week on the topic of internet/social media safety. Darren Laur and his team came in and presented to our high school students, middle school students and parents; Darren and Brandon did an excellent job of speaking to the different groups in a meaningful and relevant way. In this day and age, the importance of supporting your child in becoming a good digital citizen should not be underestimated and this message was echoed throughout all three presentations.
It came up in every presentation that our kids are doing really, really cool stuff online! We, as the parents and adults in their lives, should be facilitating how to be safe while online; in other words – how to be good digital citizens. Even though the message was very clear that, for the most part, our kids are doing really great stuff online it’s still very important that we help them to navigate this virtual world and one of the best ways we can do that is through carefully monitoring their online activity and communicating about what it is they are getting up to. There are 4 steps to internet/social media safety.
- Supervision: there are several different programs that were recommended in the parent presentation that can be used to monitor/supervise online activity. Web Watcher, Kids WiFi, and NetSanity were recommended. It’s also very important to employ some boundaries.
- Boundaries: Devices and computers should come out of the bedroom! Children should not be accessing their devices or computers at all hours of the night, during meal times and there should be some agreed upon limitations about how much screen time is appropriate. As well, there should be some boundaries in terms of what your child is able to do online and what social media sites they are participating in. Teach your child to use non-gendered names to help ensure their privacy. Something that really resonated with me from the parent presentation is that kids and young teens really have no right to privacy from their parents when online, they can earn this privacy over time by showing consistent good judgement and good digital citizenship.
- Parental Participation: Talk to them about what they’re doing online! Get an Instagram account and follow them, play the online game with them and communicate with them about how to mitigate risks that will likely come up for them.
- Software/Hardware: Install security, antivirus, firewall software protection.
Another point that was emphasized over and over again is that whatever you are doing online is public (even if you think it’s private!), permanent (even if you think it’s disappeared!), searchable and for sale. What teenagers are doing now online is contributing to their digital profile (digital dossier) and now, more than ever, universities and potential employers are using digital dossiers to screen applicants.
“When it comes to online parenting, being a child’s best friend often only enables less than desirable online behaviour. It’s important to remember that enabling can lead to damaging behaviour. Be your child’s ‘best parent’, not their ‘best friend’.”