The Digital Divide – Teens And Online Safety

Rosie Bullock

Rosie Bullock

There are so many opinions on the correct way to parent your children. The older your children get, the more dangers and temptations they will have to face. Never has the danger that my daughter faces been more on my mind than in the past year or so. Not only has she turned 12, but she’s had access to her own smartphone.

I know I’m more lax and liberal than some parents. I have a great deal of trust in Rosie, and she hasn’t done anything to break that trust to date.

This week, I was a featured parent on KSL Browser 5.0 and discussed teens and online safety. I was joined by another mom and her 14-year old daughter. We were asked questions about what guidelines we have in place with our kids and their online habits. Here is a clip from the show.

Because the TV segment was so short, I didn’t get a lot of time to talk about the details of what I allow Rosie to do online, and why I allow her to interact on social media. As I mentioned in the segment, I’ve allowed her to have accounts on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. The reason I’ve allowed her to be on social media at such a young age is because it makes her more a part of my world. She gets to see how I interact professionally online, and is acquainted with both my friends and colleagues. I’m getting to know her personality well, especially on Pinterest. She’s got a fun sense of humor and a great sense of style, and I wouldn’t know that side of her as well without Pinterest. It’s also a great platform for her Doctor Who geekiness.

@rosie_said_whatBecause she isn’t 13 yet, I have not allowed her to be on Facebook. It’s hard sticking to my Facebook decision lately because all of her friends have accounts, and I know she wants to be part of the social interaction with her friends. But with her other social media sites, I don’t feel like she’s lacking for an internet experience. When people tag her in pictures, they use my name to tag her so I know what she’s been up to. She’s eagerly counting down the 10 months until she turns 13 for her Facebook account.

Right now she’s using my old iPhone 4 without a SIM card, so it’s like an iPod touch and she can only use the apps when she’s connected to wifi. She also uses a laptop and a tablet at home, but most of her online activity is on her iPhone. Rosie also has a regular cell phone, which she’s very good at replying to my texts and answering my calls. It’s given her a lot of freedom in her communication with her friends. I give out her number to people who want her to babysit, and I am proud of how responsible she is.

I do random spot checks on her cell phone and iPhone. I see the contacts she has in her phone, the apps she’s downloaded, and read through her messages. We talk about what is appropriate to view and share, and I feel confident that she’s not using any sites or apps to mask her habits online. I know she might get more sneaky as she gets older, but she knows that I have a lot of trust in her, and breaking the rules will have consequences.

How do you monitor online activities of your children? Do you let them be active in social media? Do they have their own phones, smartphones and computers? How do you decide what the rules are?

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