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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.

The penalty for infractions? In my house it's a week without the device in question. If the iPhone is the problem, be prepared for the fact you'll need your kid to be able to call you. Stash away a cheap, pay-as-you-go voice-only phone like those available from AT&T or many other sellers. With a plan in place, you'll be ready to swap your kid's smartphone for a dumb one if need be.

I also recommend keeping desktop computers out of bedrooms. If you already have a computer in your child's room, definitely configure access privileges to control nighttime use—or take the power cord away at night. And make a point of checking the computer regularly so that you know what your child is doing.

6. Be a good role model
In our family, we hold weekly family meetings. No phones or iOS devices are allowed—and that rule is enforced for Mom and Dad as well. In addition, because our family is Jewish, we don't use our phones or other electronic devices for all of Shabbat—from sundown Friday through sundown Saturday. This is a big deal. Our Friday night dinner and Saturday lunch are pure family time. All day Saturday, no one uses a phone or computer, which means we actually talk to each other, play board games, go for walks together, and so on. Therefore, my kids—and my husband and I—know that it's possible to survive without our phones, which makes it much easier for us to establish other device-free times during the week. We have a family charging station where phones are stored overnight. My husband and I do sometimes use an iPad to watch TV in bed, but that's after the kids have been tucked in for the night.

We frequently gather with our kids in the family room and request that phones and other devices be put away for a set amount of time. The key to this is that Mom and Dad also have to follow the rules, because kids will always do as you do, not as you say. Try establishing a daily device-free time of just 10 or 15 minutes at the breakfast or dinner table, and see if you feel it has a positive impact on your family.

I have five children. I desperately wish I could protect them from everything with a simple click—but I can't, and neither can you. Keeping teens safe in the digital world means taking advantage of what technology offers, but also relying on old-fashioned involved parenting.


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