The internet is a wonderful resource for teenagers and adults alike. School reports, work, and social networking are all available at the click of the mouse. However, as amazing as the internet is, it can also be a negative influence on teenagers in that it can encourage them to waste time and view inappropriate material. Because of this, parents have a responsibility to set and enforce rules when it comes to teens’ internet use. Teenagers actually crave boundaries, even if they don’t realize it, and a healthy, well-balanced teenager has reasonable boundaries enforced by their parents. Here are some tips to tone down the internet time and keep your teen healthy.
The Internet as a Privilege
Treating the internet as a privilege instead of a right will help teenagers learn to respect the internet-related boundaries you set for them. Set rules regarding internet usage, and be sure to touch on the following points:
- Length of internet browsing time permitted per day/ week
- Times of day when internet browsing is permitted
- Sites/ types of sites that are off limits
- Whether or not you’ll be monitoring their activity by checking their history, installing a keystroke monitor, etc.
If homework requires the internet, be clear that social networking sites and games are not allowed during that time. Instead, create ways for teenagers to earn time on those sites. Designate a certain amount of time they can spend playing on the internet relative to time spent on chores, homework, and family interaction. It is your job as a parent to manage their internet time until they are able to do it themselves.
Encouraging IRL Relationships
Many teenagers refer to friendships that occur off the internet as “In Real Life” (IRL) relationships. A teen who has few IRL friends or who spends an exorbitant amount of time on the internet could be lonely or awkward in social settings, and that awkwardness could be a direct result of the fact that they spend so much time on the internet. Encouraging this teen to make new friends or join an IRL club at school will help them learn social skills and make new friends outside the anonymous world of the internet. Although there’s nothing wrong with internet friendships, your teen’s life will be much easier if they are able to make friends away from their computer, too.
Being a Parent
Most 21st century technology has built-in parental settings, so be the parent and use them. This is not cruel or unfair because protecting your child is your job. Knowing to use the internet only in moderation is an important less on to learn, especially for children and teenagers.
Exercising parental controls can be as simple as password protecting your computer and not providing private computers until your teens move away to college. Or you can use your internet browser’s own parental control capabilities. Whatever path you choose, make sure your kids are involved in the decision and are well informed before the changes take place. Otherwise, the backlash could be severe.
Parenting through the teen years can be extremely difficult, and if things have gotten out of control, there’s no shame in admitting that you need the help of an expert. The qualified staff at a Christian boarding school is an excellent resource for helping you and your family through the trying teenage years. Specializing in treating troubled and at-risk teens, Christian boarding schools approach education with a balance of discipline and love, and their methods have helped countless teens transform into intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually healthy young adults.