Teenage Online Safety- Privacy vs. Safety via @carinkilbyclark

Teenage Online Safety: Privacy vs. Safety [and How Setting Limits Can Make You Happier]

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.

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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.

Mother Arguing With Teenage Daughter Over Online Activity

Teen Behavior

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.

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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.

Comments 21

  1. Agree with your comments on this subject. I have a girl almost entering tween years and already thinking about these kinds of things! noooo! lol

  2. These are some great points! My kids aren’t quite to the teenage point yet (my oldest is 7), but I know it will be here before I know it! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  3. It’ll be a long long time before i even let my kids online. Very very scary how easy it is for a predator to get information really scares me

  4. I went to a seminar and the presenter asked one person in the audience what the weather was like in their home town. Then asking just a couple more questions that were completely benign he was able to pinpoint the location they lived in. It was crazy. It is so easy for predators to find out personal information. Kids have to be taught how dangerous it is.

  5. I lvoe this. Teenagers don’t think rationally, that’s why they aren’t responsible for themselves. So it’s our job to protect them.

  6. Internet are dangerous for children and teens since there is no rules, no policy and terms of service, you find all what you need and all you dont need it, its like black hole you will lost if you don’t overpass!

  7. Thanks for such a thoriugh review and advice on such an important topic. My son is 27 and while he was in school, we had many talks on this and other subjects that we both considered important and necessary. Keeping communication open is key and if you are divorced parents, make sure your child(ren) don’t play both ends against the middle. I have seen kids play one parent again the other with disastrous results. I have seen this go on with kids in their late 20s and early 30’s. My ex and I were very lucky not to let that happen and our son is healthy and happy. Keep up the good work with such helpful topics and advice.

  8. I absolutely agree! I was beginning to think I was over protective so I went to the web and found your blog. I am so glad I did because now I know I am doing the right thing. I will continue to follow you and thanks so much for sharing with us. I love your blog!

  9. I am so glad I found your post on pinterest! I have been flirting with the idea of starting a blog to develop my writers platform online. However, I am a bit lost on how to do that; your post has helped me. I also might look into your consulting services if I get in a jam later on. Great post! Thanks for posting!

  10. My teen daughter had an awful experience of someone posting porn on her facebook page- very graphic porn and we had to have it deleted and get the person banned.I was shocked .

  11. This is a subject that is definitely on my mind a lot. I have a 12 year old son and already we have run into a couple of issues. I think setting limits and monitoring at least what social media your child uses is just a good idea.

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