Ground Control Parenting – Carol Sutton Lewis

Not A GCP Subscriber?

Sign up here to get emails with the best tips for parenting our kids!

Experts

Helping Our Teens Stay Safe and Smart Online

Cybersecurity is very much in the news these days. How savvy are you and your children about protecting yourself in cyberspace? The Christian Science Monitor recently published “Cybersecurity in Seven Minutes, found here, which gives a quick and info packed summary of how to keep yourself safe online.

Once you’ve gotten smart on how to protect yourself, time to focus on how to help your children stay safe on-line as well. If they are old enough to make online purchases, make sure they know not to make them while they are in a coffee shop or some other public and easily hackable place with free wi-fi. Share this article with them.

The news of the Marine United scandal–in which a Marine Facebook group posted nude photos of female service members without their knowledge or consent to its 30,000 members–creates another teachable moment for our teens. We should remind our sons and daughters that they should not send pictures over the internet that they would not want the world to see. As Common Sense Media warns teens in “7 Rules to Teach Kids Online Etiquette, found here, “In today’s world, photos, texts, and videos can be posted, copied, forwarded, downloaded, and Photoshopped in the blink of an eye.” No matter how tempting it may be for our children to believe that they have control on who sees the pictures they are sending (to a friend or a social media site), assure them that this is simply not the case.

Why is this hard for our teens to grasp? It could well be biologically tougher for them to do so. In a recent lecture at Rockefeller University on The Teen Brain, Richard Friedman, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Director of the Psychopharmacology Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine, explained that a teen brain’s reward circuit, which drives risky reward seeking behavior like that involving sex and thrills, develops much earlier than its prefrontal cortex, the brain’s “reasoner-in-chief” which controls level-headed thinking. And the prefrontal cortex develops even more slowly in boys than in girls. So when your son insists on posting an inappropriate picture after you have told him all about the dangers of doing so, try to remember (as you insists that he take it down) that immaturity and fuzzy thinking may be part of the problem.

Also important to remember: in order to be able to talk with our teens and guide them through the unchartered waters of cyber etiquette, we have got to stay current on the apps and sites they are using. Ask your kids what’s new. Check Common Sense Media and other sites for info and reviews of new sites. And keep an open mind about it all: some of these new sites can be fun to explore, and none of this is going away anytime soon.

Leave a Reply