It's Tech Tuesday, when Tween Us shares online safety tips and the important info about apps and devices that parents of tweens and teens need to know.
Tweens and teens experience very strong emotions and they are learning what the most appropriate ways are to deal with their intense feelings. They already spend a lot of time online, and often the internet becomes a place to vent frustrations, express undying affection and a place to share every emotion in between. They often forget that the internet is not the best place for doing so and learn that it can lead to serious problems, from awkward encounters with people at school to impacting college and job applications.
Today's tip is a decidedly low tech approach to explaining to tweens and teens that the internet need not be their emotional dumping ground: Give your child a diary.
Explain to your child that the diary is a safe place to write about everything going on in their life and the perfect place to share their feelings.
Kids in this digital age don't understand or appreciate the value of the publicly unexpressed thought, and that's where a parent or responsible adult can help them. Tell kids that they don't have to share everything online, even if they see their friends doing the same. A diary is private, whereas there is no guarantee of privacy online. (Really, there's not.)
Parents can acknowledge the value in using words to get feelings. Intense feelings do need to be expressed, but not in social media. A journal is a far more appropriate space.
Remind your child to THINK before posting or texting. That is, they should ask themselves if what they want to share is true, helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind. If what they need/want to say doesn't satisfy those requirements, then that thought or feeling is best shared in the diary.
Similarly, a good rule of thumb is don't put anything on the internet that you wouldn't want put on billboards all over town or read by grandma (or whomever the eldest relative in your family may be).
Stress that the beauty of a dairy is that it leaves the writer in control. Kids need to be told and then often reminded that they have no control over anything they put out on the internet. Privacy controls are never full proof.
After that, respect their privacy. I know that reading a kid's diary can be tempting, but please don't do it unless you believe it is necessary for the child's safety. Let's be honest, very few parents have ever said, "I'm so glad I read my kid's diary so I could see all the nice things he/she is thinking about me."
Giving your kid a diary won't solve all online problems. But it may be a way to make a point about the difference between private and public spaces. You never know what's going to stick, and this is one trick it can't hurt to try.
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