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By Youth First, Inc. – July 14, 2020 –

Technology can be a great thing. It helps us communicate with loved ones who live far away. It helps parents have peace of mind when their child is going somewhere without them. It is a great resource to help educate our children.

There are many advantages to having technology, but there are also many concerns when it comes to safety.

Right now, during the pandemic, many children and teens have more time and more access to technology than ever. They have unlimited access to apps, web pages, and social media. The older the child is, the less likely it is they have restrictions on what they can do on their phones and computers. But it is important for parents to monitor their child’s usage, no matter the age of the child.

According to parentology.com there are 10 reasons parents should be monitoring their child’s phone or computers:

  1. Online harassment or bullying
  2. Distracted driving
  3. Addictions
  4. How they spend money
  5. Online predators
  6. Oversharing
  7. Sexting
  8. Inappropriate content
  9. Dangerous apps
  10. Your child’s safety

There are an increased number of children saying they are being bullied online. While it is important to make sure that your child is not the victim, it is equally important to make sure your child is not the one bullying or harassing others. Teens, especially, seem to have no fear of what they say online and can lack an understanding of the consequences their words can have. 

Driving while using electronics is not a good idea for anyone. It’s especially important to counsel your teen on the dangers associated with distracted driving. There are apps that can monitor a teen driver’s speed to give parents a little peace of mind.

Addictions can come in many forms – drugs, alcohol, cell phone or game usage to name a few. It is important to set healthy limits when it comes to the amount of time children spend playing video games. Monitor how much money they are spending online and make sure they are not spending money on games without permission.

With apps such as Snapchat, Tik Tok, Whisper, After School, Discord, Ask.fm or other social media apps, it is easy for teens and children to come into contact with strangers. This could lead them into a dangerous situation if they befriend a child predator. It is important for our child’s safety for them to know that they should never friend someone they do not know personally. They should never give out personal information or send inappropriate content of themselves or others.

There are helpful ways to monitor your child’s phone:

  • Have a conversation with your child and explain what your expectations are regarding the phone – what is okay and what is not.
  • Explain the dangers of talking to strangers.
  • Check devices daily to ensure kids are acting safely.
  • Download parental control apps on your phone to help monitor usage and notify you when your child is on unsafe websites.

As parents it is our job to ensure that our children are being safe when they are using their phones or computers. While it is important to grant your child more freedom as they age, it is still important to track or check your child’s phone and electronics uses to ensure they are being safe in their online interactions with others. Remember, until children are 18, parents are responsible for anything they do on their phones or computers.

For more information, go to https://parentology.com/should-i-track-my-childs-phone/ or www.youthfirstinc.org.

Image by Mircea Iancu from Pixabay

Texting girl

Tears. Fear. Guilt.

“Will my parents find out?” “Who else is going to see this?”

They trusted the other person. They thought they wouldn’t get caught. They thought no one else would see it. They didn’t know how to say no without being judged or viewed as “uncool.”

As a Youth First Social Worker, I hear these comments from teens about why they chose to send a sexually explicit message or photo. But by the time they reach my office, it is almost always too late.

Cellphones and the Internet have made it convenient for us to share information, pictures and more, but do adolescents understand the implications of sending inappropriate messages and pictures to others?

Sexting is defined as texting or other electronic messaging that is sexually suggestive in nature. It may sound flirty and harmless, but it can result in very serious consequences.

Sexting applies to all forms of electronic communication through social networking sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat) as well as texts. It may include explicit wording or seminude or fully nude photos or videos. Sexting includes receiving, sending or forwarding content.

Whether it is a text, photo or video, digital information can last forever. The sender has no control over the choice of the receiver to copy, alter, post or pass it on.

Sexting can result in many different consequences. Once the send button is pressed, it’s out there and can take on a life of its own. Embarrassment, school discipline, trouble at home, legal problems, bullying, sexual harassment, attention from online predators and damaged relationships are all examples of what could follow.

And don’t forget that because digital information can last forever, there is always the possibility that future colleges or employers could find an old sext from an online search.

Teens, if you feel pressured to send a sexually explicit message, don’t give in. Try saying no or simply ignoring the request. State your reason: “That’s sharing way too much,” or “I don’t do that because you never know who might see it.”

There is also a helpful app called “Send This Instead.” This free app includes things one could say if they’re being pressured to send a sext message. (The humorous replies are witty and sarcastic.)

Every message, photo or video you send or post creates an impression on those who see it. Think about the impression you want to make.

Before you send, post or forward any message, try asking yourself these questions:

How would I feel if my parents, grandparents, teachers or other adults saw this?

Would I want everyone at school to see this?

Would I say or share this in person?

If the answer is no, then do not to share — as tempting as it may be. Never reply to a message from someone you don’t know, and do not post personal information such as your name, age and address.

If someone sends you a sext message or image, do not reply and do not pass it on. Sharing it with someone could mean big trouble.

You should immediately tell your parent, teacher, school social worker or counselor. They will help you deal with it the right way. Wait until you have the OK from an adult before you delete it.

And remember, just because you received a sext message does not mean you are in trouble or did anything wrong. It’s when you pass it on to someone else that it becomes a problem.