(C) Julie Boyd 2012

“A young person who is highly active online, coupled with a parent who is disengaged from these new media, presents the risk of creating an intergenerational wedge.”

The Internet has dramatically changed our world and the way we interact within it. It has drastically affected the way we communicate, and while this has opened up many positive opportunities, there are also risks involved. All parents need  to take a more active role in helping your teenagers with the responsible use of technology.

While many parents feel they are not as technologically sophisticated as their children in the use of contemporary technology, software and social media, it is just as important to remember that adolescent development means your son or daughter will generally not be as aware of his/her behaviour on other people. This is where you come in as parents. You have a significant role to play in ensuring your son/daughter becomes a good DIGITAL CITIZEN.

As you will have read elsewhere there is now an extensive body of evidence which shows the impact of technology over-use on adolescent development which can include:

–          The development of over-dependence on technology

–          Sleeplessness due to ‘immediacy anxiety’ i.e. the need to respond immediately

–          Anxiety and depression due to sleeplessness and the need for positive feedback from others, even strangers

–          Misinterpretation of other’s intentions, for example a false sense of popularity from being ‘liked’ on Facebook

–          Risky behaviour such as sharing personal information which may be misused

–          A lack of understanding of the consequences of their behaviour on social media.

Some points to consider for your family might include:

  1. TURN IT OFF Some technology over-use is the result of laziness. If the computer is on, and social media sites are up on the screen, (even if they are hidden) this provides an unnecessary temptation for young people which is often hard to resist.
  2. TECHNOLOGY FREE DAYS It is worth considering at least one technology free day at home each week. That includes a ban on television, computers and phones. Where this does is to encourage students into face to face interaction with friends and family, and more physical activity.
  3. PUT TECHNOLOGY AWAY Do not have it in easy reach for your sons. If necessary take it away from them and keep it in your room when they have finished using it. Particularly at night it is important for them to have a ‘shutdown’ deadline so they are able to get uninterrupted sleep.
  4. USE DINING TABLE DISCUSSIONS to best advantage. Discuss the consequences of your children’s behaviour and how this may affect others, even strangers. The nature of the internet means that a lot of information can be posted anonymously which can lead to disastrous consequences for people they do not even know.


  1. BE AWARE of your child’s internet usage. Research suggests that:

– 54% of parents felt limited in their ability to monitor and shelter their children from inappropriate material on the Internet. YET  37% of students said their parents would disapprove if they knew what they did, where they went, or with whom they chatted on the Internet.

–  90% of parents felt they knew “some” or “a lot” about where their children went or what their children did on the Internet YET 34% of children stated they did not share what they did or where they went on the Internet with their parents.

So take an interest, ask questions. Does he play games, if so which ones? How has his internet usage impacted his friendship group?


  1. ASK FOR HELP  Have your son teach you (or his Grandparents) about using the internet more effectively. This will enable you to become more clear about the questions you could be asking in order to keep him cyber-safe.


  1. UNDERSTAND SOCIAL MEDIA This is the medium young people use to communicate, however it often limits the amount of face to face interaction, is extremely intrusive and can provide risks. It is important to discuss these with your son. Personal Safety, Internet Predators, Cyber Bullying, and Cyber Security

are all things parents and kids have been talking about since long before the telephone even, long before anything we think of, these days, as technology. The risks now are that these media are more easily accessible and more public than ever before.

Safety on the social Web is not about technology; it’s about behaviour, human relationships – civility, consideration, and common sense. Helping your son understand and practice this will stand him in good stead as a good DIGITAL CITIZEN