Editor’s Note: It’s so important to monitor your child’s online activity. I’m passionate about this topic because the internet has the potential to be a very scary, dangerous place for our children. That’s why I’m happy to bring you this guest post by freelance journalist Amy Williams to further explore keeping our kids safe online.
Are you giving your child too much privacy while they’re online?
Believe it or not, that’s actually a common problem for moms, and it could be having a bigger impact on your happiness than you think.
It doesn’t take long for most moms to start noticing how much teens love the internet. In fact, children are staring at screens far longer than the two-hour daily limit recommended by pediatricians – especially when they’re bored or have nothing else to do.
That’s a little worrying on its own… but the real problem is what kind of emotional influence smartphones can have on their users.
I’ve seen this happen more times than I’d like to admit: A child sees something they don’t like on their smartphone, and spend the rest of the day sulking and frustrated. Maybe they didn’t get a positive response to a selfie, or worse, they became the target of bullying.
It’s hard to be happy when you know your child is hurting and afraid – and that’s where the privacy issue comes in.
Teens do not like talking to us about their online problems. They often see the digital world as their personal playground, one where parents are unwanted and unneeded – and in many cases, we’ve encouraged this behavior by declining to monitor or limit their access. Unfortunately, it’s much harder to help your child if you don’t know what’s going on.
How Setting Limits Will Make You Happier
There’s an old joke about a neighborhood kid who’s playing baseball for the first time – and when told to ‘run home’, he does exactly as instructed and leaves the game. It’s cute, but it also touches on an important part of games: It’s hard to enjoy something when other people are breaking the rules.
Rules don’t stop you from having fun – they provide a set of solid, reliable guidelines, and following those guidelines is what tends to make people happy. In the same way, it may be time to stop giving your own child total freedom online – the digital world becomes too powerful of an influence when left unchecked, and teens can get sucked into its dangers before they realize how much of a problem that really is.
Now, at this point, some of you might be wondering if I’m exaggerating to try and make a point. I’m not. It’s been reported that more than half of all kids will be bullied online at some point – probably in Middle School – and further studies have demonstrated that bullying can cause significant long-term harm.
Bullying isn’t the only threat that teens are facing, either – from the pressure to sext (which is a more complicated subject than many moms have realized) to accidentally posting up material that could haunt their job prospects in the future, there’s no shortage of dangers that our kids just don’t understand.
The obvious solution, then, is to put limits on your teen until they understand those dangers and are prepared to deal with them. Now, I know what you’re thinking – a lot of teens get upset when limits are put on their connections, and there’s not a lot of short-term happiness in that conversation.
I genuinely regret that, but the long-term happiness of both you and your child means that they shouldn’t have privacy and independence until they’re ready. At the very least, I think limits should be imposed through the early years of High School. Those of you whose children are still young have it easier – the earlier you impose those limits, the easier it is to get your child to protect them.
We love our children – and because we love them, we have to do what’s right for them, even if it seems tough at the time. This is a case where safety trumps privacy – and the end result is more smiles all around.
I want to hear from you!
What are your tips for monitoring your child’s online activity? Please join the discussion in the comments section below.
About Amy Williams
Amy Williams is a freelance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.