How do you control how much personal information your teen shares online?
Real Mom Problem
“I have discovered my 15-year-old daughter is on a website similar to Facebook. She has posted WAY too much personal information (city, age, school, pictures).”
- 1. Consider keeping the family computer in an open area and/or not allowing a computer in their bedroom
- 2. Remind teens that it's not hard for someone, including you (and potential colleges and employers), to find what they're posting online
- 3. Talk about identity theft and online predators
- 4. Keep an open conversation
Real Mom Solutions
The internet is an amazing tool, but it can be a scary place. Read on for mom-to-mom advice on restricting what your teens share on the web.
Talk About Online Safety
We stressed internet safety with our sons: no sharing name, town name, phone numbers, etc., online. We tell them all the time not to ever share personal information over the internet, even if it's with someone they know.
Education is key. Talk to your teens and tell them to NOT talk to strangers on the internet. It is the same as allowing them to go play at the public park. They need to know not everyone is safe and you can't tell who is safe and who isn't.
Facebook for kids is what the phone was for me when I was their age. I spent hours talking about "nothing" with my friends when I was 13. The only difference is the public permanence of what you publish on your page. Make that clear to your son and that just because others post information, he should not.
Explain to your daughter that it's okay to talk to people online, but until she's an adult she cannot meet them and do NOT give them her address, phone number, etc. -- no matter what! Just make sure she knows her boundaries but that she has some freedom with it.
Have a talk with your daughter about how important it is that she never meets anyone in person that she met online, and that she keep things like address and phone number private.
I have always spoken to our teens about what information they can share, who they are talking to, and how predators can get their info.
Keep Computers Our of Their Bedrooms
Our daughter has her own room, but she doesn't have a computer or a TV in her room. When she uses "her" computer, she has to be out in the house with the rest of us. The ONLY way I'd let a young teen have a computer in their room would be to install a keystroke logger on it -- and check it daily. I'd also have a one-strike-and-you're-out rule in place. I'd let them know the rules, but they'd know that consequences will be swift, harsh, and non-negotiable. There's just too much temptation and danger on the internet, and kids don't have the maturity to police themselves.
The kids have accounts on the 2 computers that are set up in the living room. The only computers in bedrooms are the locked desktops belonging to my husband and myself in our room and both are set up for remotely accessing, monitoring and administrating the kids' computers so that we can keep tight control on the kids' online usage. We also have our home network set up to deny access to the internet after a certain time. The kids might not be happy about that, but as parents it is our job to make that call and do what we think is right to protect our kids and teach them responsible internet usage habits.
Until our kids are 18, the only computers accessible to them are in highly visible parts of the house. So, I do not check every aspect of what they are doing because all I have do is walk past and sneak a peek.
Get Passwords and Snoop if You Have To
I always check up on my teens' activities online. My 15-year-old daughter has a Facebook page and she has to keep me friended or she loses the privilege of using her laptop. She is only allowed to use her laptop in the living room or dining room (common areas). Plus my husband is an IT professional who worked in IT intelligence when he was in the military, so he gets in there and checks where she's been online. She used to think she could delete her history and he wouldn't know. She's had a big surprise. My oldest daughter used to argue with me about us being too protective. Then I sat her down with me and had her watch Dateline: To Catch a Predator. She stopped arguing and now understands that just because someone's My Space or Facebook profile says they are whatever, it doesn't mean it's true.
Demand to know your teens' online passwords. Until they're 18, they aren't on their own. Check up on them occasionally. That way you know what's going on. Yes, allow them some privacy, but when it comes to the internet, that stuff is NOT private. It's out there for ANYONE to see!
Before our daughter got her laptop, she had to use mine. I checked the temporary files regularly to see where she'd been and what she'd been doing, and she knew that. It was one of the conditions for her to be able to use my computer. Another condition was that I had to have her passwords at all times. If I tried to log into one of her accounts and the password had been changed, that meant automatic loss of computer privileges.
Take Away Their Online Privileges
I caught my stepdaughter talking to strangers on the internet. That ended her internet privileges. Period. I deleted her Facebook, MyYearbook, and MySpace accounts. (Our computers are, and have always been, only in the common areas of our home, not in bedrooms. By the timestamp on her posts, we found she was doing it from her mother's phone.)
My teens know my rules and what will happen if they don't follow my online rules. No computer, cell phone, laptops, and tablets. Parental controls will be added to all electronics. It's happened once. They learned their lesson. Yes, mean mom! I'm their parent not their friend.
If you want to go to extremes, you could keep your teen from getting on any social networks. Or you could get a key-logger and inform her you will be reading all her online activity.