With the internet, such a big part of modern family life, what your children get up to online when you're not around can be a huge source of worry. Without becoming too paranoid, there are lots of potential concerns about unsupervised teens using the internet on their laptops and smartphones, including:
- Viewing adult or otherwise unsuitable material
- Exposure to negative influences , i.e. extreme political views, content promoting unhealthy or unrealistic body image
- Vulnerable to grooming from older online predators
- Becoming victims or perpetrators of online bullying
- Getting involved in potentially criminal activity
Of course, in most cases, your teen is likely just chatting to their friends, viewing endless videos of cats on YouTube and playing hour after hour of Candy Crush Saga. However, it's important to be aware that teens and pre-teens are at a particularly vulnerable and susceptible age, where negative influences online can affect them far more than they would an adult. Children dont have enough experience of the world, and the online world, to always be able to tell whats real and what should be ignored. As a parent, this is where you may need to step in. Tips for monitoring and protecting teens online
- Talk to your teens about internet safety. This is one of the most important steps for protecting your children when they use the internet. Taking the time to sensitively explain the potential dangers they could face online, how to spot and report issues and whats real and what isn't could all help to arm your teen against online hazards. An honest, transparent discussion could also be good for your relationship, as your teens know you trust them and can speak to them about internet safety like adults.
- Use deleted data forensic recovery devices to uncover chatroom logs. Teenagers can generally be very secretive, particularly about what they do online. If they don't tell you what they're up to, you can reassure yourself that they are safe online by using data recovery devices to recover chatroom and other logs. Some devices can even detect adult material stored or accessed on a device, even if it is invisible to you.
- Limit time spent online. You may not be able to control what they access online and how long they do it when your teens are out of the house, but you can set some firm policies under your own roof. Putting more emphasis on family time and other offline activities whilst limiting time spent online can help your teen to realise that there is perhaps more to life than staring at a screen all day.
- Understand the apps, platforms and sites they use. This could be a great defence against online dangers. By joining Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook, you can understand the kinds of online activities your children get up to. You may even be able to follow your childs accounts and keep an eye on their activity while you're at it.