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Your Senior School Child’s Internet Journey

Posted on 19 March 2015

For many senior school children, their digital world might seem as important as the real world to them.  They might spend their evenings chatting to friends on Facebook, texting, watching and uploading videos on YouTube or downloading from iTunes.  They might be one of the millions of fans at Habbo Hotel, the world’s largest virtual community for teenagers (which has a minimum age limit of 13 in most countries.)  At school their teachers might be using tools like Google Maps, Animoto and Wikipedia to bring lessons to life and they, in turn, might increasingly turn to the internet to help with their homework. 

As they go through adolescence they might begin to rely heavily on their online social networks and choose to explore issues such as sex, relationships and body image on the internet.   They will be keen to have their independence and their digital world becomes an extension of them – and more private – as they start to use mobiles to communicate and find information.  It is also at this stage that they might take on the role of ‘technology expert’ at home but that is not a sign for parents to sit back and lose touch with what their children are doing. 

Facebook tends to be the first topic of conversation when a child reaches 13 (the legal age for a child to be on Facebook.)  Many parents make one rule with Facebook; that they become their child’s ‘friend.’  If this is the case, whilst having a watchful eye on the activity your child is posting, you have to remain uninvolved.  Children must understand that they can control their information.  It is so important that teens go to their privacy settings and decide how broadly or narrowly they want to share something.  For instance, it is possible to share a status update with just one or two people or to create a specific list of people with whom to share info.  There are also reporting links through Facebook so if teens ever seen something they think is inappropriate or offensive, they must be encouraged to report it.

They may well feel in control of technology, blogging, tweeting, uploading pictures to Facebook and Instagram to creating videos for YouTube. 71% of European teenagers post photos and videos of themselves and friends on social networking sites (Microsoft February 2010.)  As a report by UK online charity YouthNet highlighted in 2009, there is a need for ‘more guidance and support for the vulnerable in-between group of 16 and 17 years olds, who may be particularly at risk of over confidence as they feel under pressure to take on the responsibilities of adulthood.’  

It is clear that far from leaving them to it, parents need to keep communicating with older teens and strike the right balance. ‘This period (15-18 years old) is the last stage of what we call ‘childhood’ when young people may still be the responsibility of their parents but are also viewed as young adults....Effective online management at this stage will involve providing opportunities for them to explore and try different roles and identities while offering non-judgmental support....’ according to the Byron Review.

Some things to think about:

  1. Ask your children who they are with online – you wouldn’t let them go out in the real world without knowing so you are well within your rights to know.

  2. Talk about legal downloads

  3. Talk to them about their ‘digital footprint.’  In an age where employers look at Facebook accounts when considering whether to hire, they need to be aware that comments or photos they post could be seen by their teachers, complete strangers or even university admissions tutors.

  4. Set ground rules for their mobile use and explain how they could run up large bills especially if they use premium rate services like ringtone or game downloads.

  5. If your child asks you to remove the parental controls from their computer, think about whether they are mature enough to handle all online content.  Should you just adjust the settings slightly?

  6. Reinforce that they should be careful with who they are giving personal information to.

  7. Talk to them about the challenges and risks posed by sharing their location (e.g. on Facebook) –it may not be wise for everyone to know their physical whereabouts.

  8. As part of a wider discussion about sex and relationships, cover off how they use the internet to explore their sexuality.

  9. Make sure they check with you before buying anything online, especially if they are using your credit card.

  10. Above all, encourage them to come to you if anything in their digital world worries or upsets them.

Article by Zoe Sinclair from Employee’s Matter.  The views are the author’s own.

Links to more tips for parents:

From Facebook – photo, video, comments sharing website and app:
https://www.facebook.com/smartparentsguide

From Twitter – photo and comments sharing website:
https://support.twitter.com/articles/470968-families

From Instagram - photo and video sharing app:
https://help.instagram.com/154475974694511/

From You Tube - video streaming website:
https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/126289?hl=en-GB