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Six ways to keep teenagers safe online

Abbi Perets | Sept. 2, 2013
In days of yore, parents of teenagers just had to worry about sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. Now you can add technology to that list. Here are some ways to deal.

Give your kids examples of real people whose reputations have been damaged by something posted online. For example, in 2012, Indiana high school student Austin Carroll was expelled for a tweet his school deemed explicit. Rehtaeh Parsons, a teenager from Canada, killed herself after facing months of online harassment and bullying; two men (who were minors at the time of the crime) have now been charged with making and distributing child pornography.

4. Be the holder of the passwords
Remind your kids that they've waived any expectation of privacy, and make sure you know the passwords for their email, Facebook, and other social media accounts, and anything else they use. Yes, you're Facebook friends—but savvy teens can block you from seeing certain posts. You don't need to log in all the time and read everything. But your kids need to know that you can.

One popular idea is to change the Wi-Fi password for your home network daily, and only give it to your kids when they've earned it via whatever rules you've determined. Unfortunately, the implementation is a little tricky—and don't forget that your own devices also need to connect to the network.

If you're determined, however, you can log in to your router every day and change the password (consult your owner's manual or do a Web search on your router's model number for instructions). You can also simply unplug the router and keep the cable with you (although if your home phone uses VoIP [Voice over IP], you'll effectively cut off that mode of communication as well).

Another solution is to change the default settings on your router to set restrictions on a per-device basis. Not all routers allow you to do this; to see what your specific model offers, log in to your router setup page and look for a tab labeled Parental Controls, Restrictions, or something similar. Here's the process for configuring an AirPort wireless network with time limits for each individual device your kids use.

5. Don't let your teens sleep with their phones or computers
A lot of nasty stuff in the teenage world happens at night. Alone in their rooms, kids can text horribly hurtful insults, goad others into posting inappropriate pictures of themselves, and engage in conversations with strangers. Don't let your kids be a part of it. Set up a place where phones and laptops are charged overnight, for instance a multi-charging station like Griffin's $100 PowerDock 5, which lets you charge multiple iPads and iPhones; Kanex's $99 Sydnee Smart Recharge Station for iPad and iPhone (3.5 of 5 rating); XtremeMac's $150 InCharge X5 Docking Station (3.5 of 5 rating); or Kangaroom Storage's $35 Bamboo Multi-Charging Station, which can also accomodate a laptop. Tell your kids to use you as the excuse: "My parents confiscate my phone at night."


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