They’re growing up fast and it could feel like their digital world is foreign to you. But keep in mind that kids are still doing the same things kids have always done. They’re hanging out with friends and chatting – they’re just doing it online. They probably don’t even see a line between their online and offline worlds – it’s all just a part of life. They might spend their evenings texting or chatting to friends, or they might be watching and uploading videos on YouTube, or downloading the latest tracks from iTunes. Playing on Xbox or Playstation or making the most of free online games on Miniclip could be a big part of their spare time.
Because adolescence is a common time to start taking risks and exploring new territories, they might begin to rely heavily on their online social networks and choose to explore issues such as sex − including pornography, relationships and body image − on the internet. This exposes them to a huge range of information and opinions – some of it helpful, some of it not so helpful.
They’re keen to have their independence and their digital world becomes more portable – and more private – as they start using mobiles to communicate and find information, but it’s important to let them know your expectations and boundaries.
It’s at this age that they might take on the role of ‘technology expert’ at home (programming the SKY box or helping when the computer screen freezes) but that doesn’t mean that parents can sit back and lose touch with what they’re doing. Even though they feel in control of technology, children of this age are still vulnerable to cyber bullying and Harmful content so keep that conversation flowing.
Age 13 – 14 simple checklist:
- Ask them where they are online and who they’re with – you wouldn’t let them go out in the real world without knowing where they’re going, so why let them do it in online?
- Teach them how to behave responsibly online (e.g. how to download music legally and respect other online users).
- Make sure you set SafeSearch to the right level for your child’s age and maturity – but remember, they might not be 100% effective and they aren’t a substitute for parental supervision.
- Remind them that the internet is a public place and that they must be very careful about revealing any personal information online.
- Talk to them about their ‘digital footprint’ – explain that any comments or photos they post now could be seen by their teachers, complete strangers or even university admissions tutors and employers in the future. Remind your children that what they put online is permanent, not temporary.
- Set some ground rules for their mobile use and explain how they could run up large bills if they sign up for premium rate services, like ringtone or game downloads.
- Encourage them to come to you if anything they encounter online worries or upsets them.
- Work together to create your own Digi-Family Agreement, with rules you can all agree to.