I’m not sure it’s a big secret to parents that their kids are spending a lot of time online, but what might be a surprise to them is just exactly what their kids are doing online.  I know when I was a middle schooler and teen I was pretty good at hiding certain things from my parents…it’s kind of a natural instinct kids pick up from birth!  So as the world as we know it has greatly changed over the years, one thing hasn’t…kids still are pretty good at hiding things from their parents!

Nowhere is this fact more true than in the online habits of teenagers.  It’s true that kids often hide the details of their emotional, relational, academic and social lives from their parents, but their online lives are most likely to be the default ‘out-of-bounds’ area for parents;

Teens have long been hiding their racier activity from their parents. According to a new study from security technology company McAfee, the internet is causing that behavior to seriously spike.” ~Mashable~

A recent article I was reading in Mashable called What’s Your Teen Hiding Online? stated that cheating (48.1%) and hacking (51%) were two common online activities to go along with engaging in social media, gaming and porn.  And even though more parents are using parental controls today, teens were getting more creative in hiding their activity from their parents;

According to “The Digital Divide: How the Online Behavior of Teens is Getting Past Parents,” 70% of teens are hiding their online behavior from their parents, up from 45% in 2010…The study found that teens are getting creative with how they hide their online content and activity—a majority of teens (53%) regularly clear their browser history to keep their parents out of the loop. Twenty-four percent of teens went so far as to either create private email addresses unknown to their parents or create duplicate/fake social media profiles.” ~Mashable~

Unfortunately most parents have little to no knowledge of their kids online habits because they simple fail to initiate and engage in those conversations with their children.  And when parents fail to engage, youth can often develop a ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell‘ attitude…in other words…if parents don’t ask about what they’re up, then they feel no obligation to keep them in the loop!

So one of the best ways to maintain trust and accountability between parents and their children is to keep the communication lines open early, and to set appropriate and healthy boundaries from the onset of online activity.  It can often be a painful and frustrating process when you start, but I think the payoff is way worth the effort.  Just like everything else with parenting, sometimes decisions are made that kids may not like or agree with (actually that might happen often as they get older and push for more dependence!).  But if there’s been consistency, clarity and communication in your parenting methods, then your kids will often develop a respect and trust that you have their best interests in mind…especially those that maintain a Christ-centered parenting model!  The result is less resistance to healthy boundaries set by parents.

Don’t worry though…sometimes we read these articles and infographs and feel ‘doom and gloom’ about where things are heading.  But as parents, we can help change the trajectory of these trends by taking interest and action in our kids lives, especially their online lives.  Remember, just because stats and trends inform us of where things appear to be going, doesn’t often mean that’s the way it ought to be.  And although we might not be able to change or stop the trends and development in technology, we can be a force and influence in the discernment formation of our kids.

So take heart, get plugged in and raise the bar in your home…it starts with you!

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