May 012016


Contibutor Hillary Smith May 2016

As parents, we are faced with the modern dilemma of balancing our children’s safety with their need for digital privacy.  In recent years, technology has advanced in ways that once were only imaginable in science fiction novels and movies.

Meanwhile, parents are left to make sense of the cyberbullying, sexting, over sharing, and predator dilemmas that can shift our protective instincts into high gear.  These feelings can be magnified when our kids are highly connected to social media and devices for hours on end.

Beyond experiencing countless sleepless nights, this often leads many parents to begin questioning if they should actively monitor a child’s online activity.  Unfortunately, this places parents in a precarious situation, because many people (and teens) view these acts as an invasion of privacy.

WVM May 2016 Hillary FAMILY Image 1On the other hand, others believe these acts are necessary to ensure our children’s safety.  Like any debate, there are pros and cons for each decision we need to consider before choosing the right choice for their families.

The Importance of Respecting a Teen’s Privacy

As children reach adolescence, our sons and daughters have a lot on their plates as their bodies undergo hormonal changes and they begin to question who they are in life.

These years are naturally filled with angst, and it is natural for them to seek autonomy away from their parents in the final push to maturation. Experts in the child development field acknowledge this transition is necessary for children to begin forming their own self-identities.

Privacy is a valuable commodity during these years, because it allows children opportunities for self-reflection as they begin gaining emotional and social independence.

This development phase allows our kids to establish goals, values, and belief systems that define who they are.

Unfortunately, problems arise when teens begin exhibiting bad choices, risky judgments, or there is a breakdown of communication with parents.

Our teens’ love of technology might lead our children to turn to social media or other online technologies to communicate with their friends, leaving parents out of the mix.  While devices are a great outlets for kids to express themselves, this secrecy added with teen brain development can leave our kids exposed to a variety of dangers lurking behind their screens.

The Argument for Online Safety

As our sons and daughters crave more privacy, their secrecy can leave us questioning when we should be monitoring a teen’s online activity for safety reasons.

Daily we hear and read negative stories abound about teens and technology gone wrong, which offer us a host of very legitimate reasons why we should be concerned and aware of our child’s digital activity.

Listed below are 4 concerns all parents should consider when it comes to a teen’s online safety.

87 percent of our children have encountered cyberbullying either as a victim or witness.  This can lead to a child feeling isolated and alone when we know children who are bullied experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide.

Only one out of ten children will notify an adult when cyberbullying happens to them.  In almost half of all bullying cases, the bullying stops within ten seconds if an adult intervenes!

40 percent of teens admit to sexting.  The act of sexting might not seem too bad at first, but if a child is caught with these images, they can be prosecuted for possessing or distributing child pornography.  This is frightening, because it can impact a child’s future for years to come.

500,000 predators are logged online everyday seeking new victims.  Many social media sites and online games make it easy for strangers to contact our children encouraging them to send intimate photos or to meet in real life.

WVM May 2016 Hillary FAMILY Image 2Safety & Respecting a Teen’s Need for Privacy

Parents need to consider that teens ultimately need adults who are supportive and positive to help develop their independence, need for privacy, and keep their safety in mind.  We need to challenge ourselves to empower our children to safely handle the digital world by teaching social media etiquette and instilling guidelines for appropriate online conduct.

Do you believe privacy or safety should prevail?  Why?

Born and raised in Austin, TX, Hilary Smith is a free-lance journalist whose love of gadgets, technology and business has no bounds. After becoming a parent she now enjoys writing about family and parenting related topics.  Twitter

Photo Credit – Hillary Smith