According to a recent survey, about 50% of U.S. teens report that they are on the internet “almost constantly” (see the Pew Center Report from August 2022). So as parents and caring adults, this is an opportunity to support our children and teens by focusing on our behavior and reinforcing online safety.
Modeling Online Behaviors
Our homes are the primary place for forming children and youth in all kinds of behavior. In general, parents’ habits become the same habits children learn. Mobile use and online safety are habits formed at home, too. Parents should consider the appropriate use of technology and model it. Consider these questions:
- Do you use your phone at the dinner table?
- Do you text while talking to others?
- Do you instinctively pull out your phone whenever you receive a new message?
- Do you text while driving?
- Do you use computers in public areas of the home or behind closed doors?
Our approach to online behavior should match what we expect from children and young people.
Teaching Online Safety
In addition to our good example, we must teach children and young people about internet safety. Consider these:
- Privacy: Nothing on the internet is private. Whatever we post, it is for the world to see. Even when we think something is private, it just takes one person to share a screenshot to make it public.
- Truth/Accuracy: People online are not always truthful when interpreting events or giving advice or “facts.” Just because it is on the internet doesn’t mean it is true.
- Anonymity: People may not be truthful about who they are. Anonymity can provide a disguise in which people may not be who they claim to be. Worse, some predators seek to connect with and harm young people.
- Permanency: Behave as if everything posted online is forever. The internet is a permanent record of what we say and do online. People have had their posts, videos, and other online contributions affect their education and career plans.
Naturally, these lessons are not one-time reminders. Instead, they must be reinforced over time, especially as children grow and their devices change. Parents should regularly converse with their children about what they do on the internet. Just as we would be concerned about the physical places our children frequent, the same concern holds for the sites they visit on the internet.
Modeling and mentoring are two essential aspects of supporting children and youth as they grow in their internet use.
Digital Learning and Technology Specialist
Credit: Material in this post is based on and adapted from How You Can Promote Safety