So my teen son approached my husband and I the other night about a follower on his Instagram account who was asking him questions about a local organization that he was in. Cool, no big deal, I’m OK with that, but being in the industry, I am also very cautious and I had every right to be …
He reads to us what the guy is asking him:
“Hi. How did you get into the organization and how can I join?”
My son asks us how he should respond and my husband tells him to politely let him know about the organization, the website, and any organization contact information. However, the guy does not stop there and he continues to press on with more questions.
My red flag goes up and I ask my son if he knows this guy. My son says no. I tell my son to end the conversation as I know where this is leading. My husband tells me to calm down and relax. Um, NO! I’m the expert in this area, I know the signs.
Sure enough the guy responds:
“Thanks for the info bro. Can I ask where you are from and what local organization you are in so I can put in a good word for you?”
I immediately grab my son’s phone, go to the security settings in his Instagram and block the guy. I tell my son he should never put his age in a profile and make him rewrite his profile with me there, then I log into my Instagram account and look the guy up and send him a not-so-polite message informing him of my position as a mother and tech adviser that will now publicly display his profile name and submit him to the social media network for harassment.
Here are some ways you can keep your kid safe online without smothering them.
Know how to set security measures and privacy. I can’t stress this enough with parents. Why would you let your child participate in something you are unsure of and don’t take the time to learn about yourself? That’s just plain lazy parenting! And it’s not better to keep them from the Internet or Social Media because technology is a part of life now and whether you like it or not, they are learning about it in school, at work, through their friends, etc. So it’s better to start learning the best security measures and safety precautions instead of fighting to keep them offline. If you aren’t too sure about security methods, be sure to grab a copy of my book A Savvy Mom’s Guide to Parenting Generation Z.
Don’t be afraid to let your teens on social media. Blocking them from it will do more harm than good. They are smarter in this generation than you think, so they will only find a way how to get online to spend with their friends. Kids, especially teens, need to interact both online and offline. They shouldn’t be online 24-7, but this generation does keep socially connected in ways that can positively (or negatively) impact friendship. Imagine if all your friends were sharing a YouTube video or online meme joke and you were never allowed online to share in those moments. You become left out and that’s when depression can set in. As teens, this is the most important time for them to stay connected as they find their individuality.
Do talk to your teens about safety measures and limit whom your kids can interact with. With teens, this may be a little more along the lines of “trusting your gut and your child” rather than just setting who they can or cannot interact with. When they become older, like mine, you are less likely to know who their friends are because trust me, you won’t be at the high school monitoring them 24-7. Teens need their independence and you don’t want to be a “helicopter” parent hovering over them all the time. It’s rather best to be a “submarine” parent, waiting under them to catch them if they fall. We would like to prevent anything bad happening to our children, but they must learn on their own as well and as teens, they need your trust in this generation, so simply talk to them!
Lead by example and get off the tech yourself. Our family does family meal times every night, no electronics at the table either. We spend time talking about our day. We also make certain nights movie nights or board game nights. We take family vacations, we go to conventions together, and we simply spend time as a family. That means my husband and I must be off our tech as well. Though keeping our phones on hand is important, we just don’t surf social media or play mobile games during certain family times. Teens learn visually and they respect you more when you “practice what you preach”
Play a video game with your kids or watch YouTube with them. Learning about your teens interests can help you learn more about the positive and negative impacts of what they are into. Don’t depend on the video game industry or Social Media to babysit your kids for you. My teens play violent games WITH ME and we discuss things as we play;
Me: “You know that can’t really happen right?”
My son: “Yeah, that’s so fake. If I fell like that, my neck would break.”
Me: “So don’t try that, you know you’d get hurt.”
My son: “I know mom, it’s all just a game, not real.”
These are what educators like to call “teaching moments” and they are the moments your teens will remember the most. Besides, I love hearing my sons brag to their friends about how “Dude, my mom can kick your butt in Call of Duty!”
Keep your kids safe. Know what they are doing. Don’t be afraid of letting them use social media, but TALK TO THEM!
I have three teens growing up in this technologically advanced generation, but not all parents majored in Computer Science and Social Media like I did, so many are unaware of the positive and negative impacts. Like any kind of parenting, just get involved and learn with them. If you can’t find the time, MAKE THE TIME, it’s your responsibility.
What do you think of the way I handled the situation? What would you have done?
Get more tech parenting tips from my book A Savvy Mom’s Guide to Parenting Generation Z