I don’t think preteens (or young teenagers, for that matter) should have any privacy online.
None at all.
Hear me out.
I am a teacher, so I realize the digital world can be an amazing place, full of wondrous educational opportunities I could never have imagined when I was young. I utilize technology in my classroom that sometimes even blows my mind. My sixth graders love it, and it can be a great, great thing.
That being said, there is so much darkness online. One wrong click, and you are in a place you yourself never want to go, and that same content is available to our littlest kids who get their hands on a tablet or smartphone.
You’ve probably heard that the newest statistics indicate boys have their first experience with pornography between the ages of 8 and 11, but did you know that is also the same age most children are given a smartphone? This is probably not a coincidence.
Another shocking statistic is that almost 80% of children viewing pornography are doing so in the home, and 90% report doing so while they are supposed to be doing homework.
Some are calling for parents to hold off on getting smartphones for their kids. The Wait Until 8th movement calls for a “banding together” of parents willing to let kids be kids longer. When I asked my 7th grade son what he thought of this, he said it would never work. In his observation, everyone in his school (7th and 8th grades) has a phone, and they are all smart phones. Granted, these are his observations, but when I worked in this jr. high, I also noticed there are few kids who did not whip out smart phones as soon as the bell rang.
Digital media consumption is becoming the acceptable drug of choice for many teens, and it has devastating effects.
The Novus Project has a lot of good resources for parents. You can even create a personalized family media use plan that communicates clearly what is expected out of everyone.
You may be saying to yourself, But I have a trustworthy child. They would never do anything that they shouldn’t online. I get that. My oldest son is 12. He is a good kid, that I would consider very trustworthy. However, I still make him give me his phone every night by 9 p.m., 8 p.m. on a school night. I still check his texts and online activity. I alert his friends’ parents when I see texts coming in with inappropriate things or at inappropriate times.
I may not be the “cool mom” because I do this.
But, hey, THAT’S PARENTING.
My priority is that my kids are safe and loved.
Kids can have all the privacy they want in their room without electronics. But they are simply not capable to make the right decisions all the time online.
And really, it’s not even that I don’t trust my child. I don’t trust everything else that’s out there. If my son knows I am going to check, then he’s less likely to be tempted by it all.
According to the Today Show, the top three parental control apps are Net Nanny, SecureTeen, and TeenSafe. I use SecureTeen because it’s a bit more affordable, yet does everything I want.
Bottom line, parents, we need to be aware. We need to be involved.
In a recent survey, 71% of teens admitted to purposely keeping their online activity from their parents. Our kids live in a very different world than we did. They have some pretty amazing advantages because of this, but there are some very real dangers. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but I encourage you to take charge, know how to protect your kids, and never compromise their safety online because you don’t want to rock the boat. The cost could be too high.