Heathdale flower 21st June 2024

The World Online

Want to know how to keep up with your teen's online activities? Learn how to gradually build their digital independence and ensure their safety with practical tips and resources.

Heathdale flower

Technology is so rapid in its development that parents can feel two steps behind when keeping up with what is happening in the online space for their teens. Every family approaches technology in their own contexts and with different rules about devices, apps and screen time.

How do you know if your teen is okay online?

It’s helpful to think about online independence in the same way as we think about independence more broadly. One day, your child will be fully independent online and making all their own decisions about likes, images, contacts and content. Most parents do not go from travelling 24/7 with their child to suddenly handing them the keys to the car and saying “see you later” at 18. We aim to build up independence by gradually allowing them smaller responsibilities until they learn to handle the freedom of going out with friends by themselves or making their own way around the city on transportation independently.

We can do exactly the same with technology – beginning with safe and monitored experiences, largely controlled by us as parents, to build up their competency and maturity in handling the world online.

Good questions to ask about technology are similar to the questions parents ask about other forms of responsibility and independence – who, what, where and how?

- Who are they playing with? Who are their online friends? Are they good influences for one another online? Have I read their texts?
- Where are they going online? What apps have they downloaded? What sites are they playing on?
- How ready is my teen for this level of responsibility? Do they need to show a bit more maturity before they access this app or this site?
- How is my teen managing himself/herself online? When you look at their chats or messages, are you happy with the information they are sharing and the manner in which they communicate?

Depending on your answers, you may vary the amount of monitoring and limits you exercise on their online life. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing!

Parents have a range of ways of managing online limits with younger teens:

- Physically giving the phone back to mum/dad to keep overnight at 9pm
- Turning off wifi access after a certain point of time each day
- A wifi router that has the ability to filter net content and keep young people from accessing porn etc. (e.g. Asus router)
- Software installed on phones or devices that allows for parental monitoring (e.g. Qustodio app)
- Keeping the device out of bedrooms and being used in family spaces only
- Ensuring that parents have access to passwords and are able to access devices for checking
- Being friends/following your child’s media accounts

Great advice for parents can be found via the eSafety Commisioner’s website and further help and advice can also be accessed through Parentline.

What can I do if something goes wrong online for my child?

Talk about it – encourage your child to always come to you if things are not right online. Many teens don’t want to report bad online experiences to their parents because they fear getting all their devices or online access taken away. This may lead to them hiding difficult experiences when they really need help.

If the negative experience is serious, gather any possible evidence including screenshots etc. The eSafety Commissioner provides clear advice on how to report online abuse and what can be done to remove images or stop cyberbullying.

If the online harmful behaviour is related to the school environment, teachers can help also and contacting your child’s homeroom teacher or coordinator is a good step to take so that your child can be supported at school and have the issues followed up.

The world online can be wonderful! It just takes time and support to learn to navigate it safely and to be a responsible citizen out in the big wide cyberworld.