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Technology Safety Advice for Parents

While technology can certainly provide a good means for children and teens to keep in contact with friends, it can become a tool for abuse. Technological abuse is when an abusive partner or friend uses technology to control and monitor the other partner. This type of abuse can vary from sending malicious texts to a partner, constantly texting and calling, publicly humiliating and criticizing a partner online, sexting, or monitoring one's actions and history on the Internet.

In order to protect children from technological abuse, it's important to start a conversation about technology use and safety early, even before they are dating. Talking with your child and fostering a relationship of open communication is the best way to know what is happening in their lives. Setting clear boundaries and rules while maintaining approachability will increase the chances that your child will seek guidance from you when an uncomfortable or dangerous situation arises. Having a conversation about who other options of "safe" people to turn to (such as family friend, teacher, guidance counselor or youth advisor), if they want to talk to someone other than you, is also a great and empowering resource for them to have.

Check out these tips to help keep your children and teens safe while using technology.

  • Create an environment in your home that encourages technology safety and boundaries
    • Place computers in an open and public area in the house
    • Consider charging all family cell phones in one location at night and set a time for phones to go on the charger
  • Create specific guidelines on technology use for your family. Here are a few tips to get you started:
    • Have a conversation with your children face-to-face about what rules you will have. Listen to their feedback and consider what you feel comfortable with.
    • Establish that safety is first priority in everything that your children does with technology
    • Discuss with your family how much time is spent on technology, what types of websites and apps are being viewed, who they can communicate with on the phone or online, who they can give contact information to, what to do if something alarming happens, where they can use devices or charge them, etc.
    • Discuss what should be kept private and what can be posted publically.
    • Let children know that they are responsible for following the rules you have set as a family. Establish what consequences will be given if they break one or more of the family guidelines for technology use. Note: consequences should vary depending on the severity of the infraction.
    • Even after the guidelines have been put into place, encourage your children to come to you to discuss anything that comes up that they aren't sure how to handle. Technology is always evolving so your family guidelines should too!
  • Consider how you can be a good example for your children in the digital world.
    • Is there anything that you do online that you wouldn't want your children doing?
    • Are there steps you take to maintain privacy online or on your smartphone?
    • Have you shared these steps with your children?
  • Pay attention to your children's digital activityHelp children set their own boundaries around their phone and computer. Remind them that they do not have to let others scroll through their phone/text messages or emailsHelp your children understand why it is important to never reveal his or her password to anyone, including friends
    • Check the sites they visit most frequently and the postings they are making online.
    • Take part in what they do online (i.e. make a Facebook page and friend them)
  • Have an open discussion with your child about the ramifications of sexting. Avoid using judgmental language because your child may be less likely to come to you if they need to. This is already a hard thing to talk to parents about. Showing your children that you are there to support them may make them feel less nervous or embarrassed to talk to you.
  • Plan "unplugged" time for the family and make it enjoyable (i.e. have fun weekends without technology). Encourage children to take time to experience life without social media, phones, TV, etc. You have to model this too!

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