Tech and Togetherness

Age Guide: What’s My 15+ Year Old In To?

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Top tips for kiwi digi-kids.

It might be tempting to think that older teens are 100% tech-savvy and dealing with everything the digital world throws at them. It’s likely that they’re happily playing Xbox or Playstation with their friends, managing their busy social life and sharing photos on Facebook, posting self-created videos on YouTube and expressing their opinions on a blog or Twitter.

If they’re into music, they might already have an MP3 collection greater than any album collection you could ever muster and enjoy finding out about new bands through a music app.

As they start thinking about university or finding employment, they might be participating in online activities, like volunteering or mentoring, to enhance their CV or they could be searching job portals for that first rung on the career ladder. And they’re probably starting to buy clothes, books and other things online.

The teenage years are characterised by risk-taking, and technology will be no exception. Some risks include looking at pornography, taking part in violent online games, and exchanging sexts (swapping nude and sexually suggestive images). It’s important to voice your expectations regarding these behaviours as it can have a powerful effect on your teenagers behavior. Keep in mind that while some teens find themselves in trouble online, most navigate these risks well.

It’s clear that, far from leaving them to it, parents need to keep communicating with older teens and strike the right balance. They might want to keep some things to themselves, so respect their privacy; they might want to take sole control of their digital world, so respect their independence; and they’re no doubt becoming resilient enough to deal with some online risks themselves, so let them.

Age 15+ simple checklist:

  1. If your son or daughter asks you to remove the SafeSearch from their computer, think carefully. Do you think they’re mature enough to handle all online content and interactions? Should you just adjust the settings slightly (e.g. to ‘moderate’)?
  2. Take the time to discuss how to behave responsibly online and to respect others (e.g. how to download content from legitimate websites and not to post thoughtless comments).
  3. Explain why it’s important that they are careful with their personal information online as anyone could see it.
  4. Talk to them about the challenges and risks posed by sharing their location (e.g. on Facebook Places or Foursquare) – it may not be wise for everyone to know their physical whereabouts.
  5. Remind them that their digital footprint means that what goes online stays online – use real-life examples like the fact that employers and university admissions tutors often check social networking sites for information about candidates.
  6. Make sure they check with you before buying anything online including apps and music, especially if they want to use your credit card.
  7. Work together to create your own Digi-Family Agreement, with rules you can all agree to.
  8. Reward them. Teenagers value independence, so once they have proven how responsible they can be, let your rules and restrictions loosen up a little. This is not the time to be completely hands off, but you can allow them more freedom and flexibilty as they earn it.

Quick Tips

  1. Remember: Remind your kids that what goes online stays online.
  2. Did you know?: Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and messaging apps like Kik and WhatsApp have an age limit of 13 and over.

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