By Amy Kristine Williams -- I love privacy. It’s one of the foundations of our society - and when our lives are kept private, it’s so much easier to be who we want to be, without worrying so much about what others think. Maybe that’s why teens are so enamored with the internet - many of them still haven’t discovered who they are, and the chance to cut loose and feel like they belong must be amazing.
Except, of course, for a few of the teeny, tiny problems
that they face these days. Worldwide usage of the internet continues to grow,
and with those connections come new dangers that may not have been an issue
even three or four years ago. Here are some of the big things stopping teens
from being safe online.
Once something is posted online, it’s probably not going to go away. This isn’t
an accident - most websites (especially
social media sites) actively want as much information about people as possible,
and they have a vested financial interest in keeping that information around.
The problem, of course, is when the information being kept is damaging - few
things are less enjoyable than getting reminders of an old embarrassment year
after year as new people find and share it.
Forget about pushing kids around on the playground - bullying’s new form is
digital, and the equalizing power of the internet means anyone can start hurting others. Quite a few of them have noticed,
too, given that more than half of all kids have engaged in cyberbullying.
not doing it in the first place - that’s actually normal, albeit worth keeping
tabs on to be sure your kid isn’t doing something risky. No, the problem is
when their sexts and selfies start getting shared without their consent and
spread to their peers, since that will probably result in severe mockery and
Notably, children who are the victims here tend to get blamed for the event by their peers,
usually because of reasoning like “You shouldn’t have shared such a slutty
picture”. The teens saying this are the same ones who agree that spreading
information without consent is wrong. No, it doesn’t make sense - welcome to the world of teens.
Sharing: You know how I mentioned that social media sites want information?
Here’s a fun one - sites that share your information even when you told them not to. I know, that sounds like it should be illegal, but it
all tends to be described on the terms of service page - and users technically
did agree to that when they signed up for the service. Social networks want information shared, and they’ll go
to great lengths to make that happen.
I could keep
going, but I think you get the picture. The internet is not a safe place for kids to be - neither forums nor social
networks are completely without risk, and that’s where privacy comes back into
the picture. Teens do not like sharing
information about their online activities, but at the same time, they’re
not prepared for the risks and challenges of today’s digital world.
I’ll be honest with you - I don’t think the privacy of our
children is worth more than their safety. They have no intrinsic right to be
plugged in 24/7 without any kind of supervision, and it’s time to retake
control of their digital lives. Solutions like WebCurfew are a free easy way to do that,
even for non tech-savvy parents. They
may not like it, but they’ll have to learn to deal with it - and many of the
bad feelings will go away if you come up with a development plan that links
specific demonstrations of maturity to specific rewards.
Have they done all of their chores for three months without
being asked? Turn the internet off an hour later. Have they held down a
part-time job for a whole summer? Stop using GPS tracking. Linking offline
actions to online rewards can help keep teens focused on the rest of the world…
and ensure that you only lift your supervision when you’re certain that they’re ready to be independent.
Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern
California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on
positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on
issues like cyberbullying and online safety. Reach her on Twitter at @AmyKWilliams1: