With 87 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 using the Internet — half of them daily — and 19 million teens running their social lives via text messages, according to Teens and Technology, a 2005 study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, it’s more important than ever that parents become technology savvy. By staying on top of the latest technology trends and monitoring the way your teens use technology, you can help guide them away from risky online behavior and develop a stronger parent-teen relationship.
Here are 7 tips to help you navigate the world of technology and teens:
1. Learn how to use the digital tools your teen favors, from cell phones to computers and beyond. Not sure how to send a text message on your phone or an instant message on your computer? Ask your house expert — your teen — to give you a lesson.
2. Get in on the code. Your teen’s quick-texting fingers send out some confusing words, including “PAW,” “MOS,” and “CD9.” Find out what it all means with the help of regularly updated texting dictionaries like Webopedia and NetLingo even or Urban Dictionary for slang terms. To get you started: PAW means “parents are watching,” MOS means “mom over shoulder,” and CD9 means “Code 9,” parents are around.
3. Familiarize yourself with social networking sites such as www.facebook.com and twitter. If your teen has a page on one (or more) of these sites, make it clear that you expect to view it regularly — and make sure you do it.
4. Be clear and consistent about what is off limits on the web, including specific sites, chat rooms, games or blogs. Have consequences for breaking these rules.
5. Limit the time your teen spends online or on his/her cell phone every night, and periodically check in on what he or she is looking at online.
6. Keep tabs on your kid’s Internet use by using web browser tools and software designed to block certain sites.
7. It’s a given that you should be familiar with your child’s friends, but you also need to find out who your teen is talking to by text and online. Because users on Instant Messenger and social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter have fake names such as PuppyLove and GoYankees333, it’s hard to tell whether or not your teenager is only chatting with people you know. Ask your kid to make a list of his/her friends and their corresponding “screen” names. If your teen starts corresponding with someone not on that list, it could be a cause for concern.