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Teens and Technology

If you aren’t online, you don’t exist…

There is a great book by Rosalind Wiseman called Queen Bees & Wannabes. One of the first chapters summarises her research and experiences with Technology, Media and Girl World. However, a lot of the advice in that chapter relates to boys as well. I have summarised some of it here, however, I highly recommend this book to all parents of teen girls. It is comprehensive, easy to read and full of great tips.

Kids live in two worlds at the same time, the real world and the virtual world, and they interact with each other. Technology has its advantages and is a useful tool for communicating, working and safety concerns. In teen world, phones are a status symbol. They are places where hours of mindless activity can be spent when kids can be doing other more useful things. Phones can make it more difficult to track where your child is as they can lie and say they are where they should be. It can drastically increase the spread and intensity of gossip, humiliation and drama. And we, as adults, are sometimes role modelling this behaviour with our own online obsessions.

People act online like they wouldn’t in real life. People fight and argue over technology like they wouldn’t face to face. People put things online that are inappropriate but easy to disseminate and hard to get rid of. People give out personal information knowing that it is risky but this does little to stop them. It comes down to that thought of, “It’s okay. It won’t happen to me.” Technology can make us paranoid, wondering what people have seen or read about us online. And teens, as well as adults, are addicted to being connected and constantly in the loop of what is going on in their social world online.

Some great tips for technology and kids are:

· If you have given your primary school child a phone that has capabilities other than calling you, their grandparents or 000, then you have lost your mind! I love this line. Why do primary school children need data on their phone. It is just a recipe for disaster and puts an enormous amount of online power in very young, inexperienced hands. Consider your limits on your child’s phone.

· Under no circumstances should a child share a password with ANY friend.

· Do your best to know your child’s passwords. Of course that can change that password but random checks can prevent this.

· Look at when your child is using their phone by doing random checks. I prefer screen to be out of bedrooms one hour before bedtime. However, children can always sneak their screens back. If the checks reveal your child is using devices in the middle of the night, this is significantly affecting their sleep and probably stress levels. Consider removing all devices for the next day as a consequence.

· Have a designated adult whose job it is to clear search histories. No-one else should be allowed to do this. Therefore, if a search history is being wiped before the designated date, chances are your child is searching for things they shouldn’t. Therefore, more supervision may be required.

· Do not allow screens in bedrooms during sleep time. Kids need sleep to grow and function properly. Their brains and bodies are developing at an astronomical rate and they need sleep to do this. If children are online and chatting to friends during the night, they are spending precious and important sleeping hours chatting and stressing over social dramas that may be going on with their friends. Let them know that it’s okay to be disconnected and that their friends will still be there in the morning. Model to behaviour too.

· Don’t be afraid to lay down the law. They may dislike you for a little while but they will always love you. It is your job to show them the limits otherwise no-one else will.

Wiseman, R. (2002). Queen Bees and Wannabes. Piatkus, London.

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