There is no denying that this generation is living on tech. As parents with teenagers, we are responsible for keeping the balance of usage and abuse of these devices. Our children are exposed to a world that is cunning and ruthless. If we do not teach our children how to take care of themselves using devices such as mobile smartphones and computers, we are exposing them to different types of dangers. I now have a teenager. I can no longer play watchdog and neither would I want to be just one. Instead, I would like to teach my teenager how to take care of himself when out and about. Believe me, this is easier said than done when it comes to Matthew. But we have to start somewhere and we have to start as early as possible.
Thankfully, working in IT has not deprived me of the information needed to keep my knowledge up to date. It is not simply knowing which computer or which smartphone to buy. It is not simply about which operating system or which antivirus software to choose. As parents, we need to let our children know about the things that could happen out there if they aren’t careful. Sure, Matthew is not trading real money online on apps nor is he doing any online betting or gambling but that doesn’t mean he isn’t exposed to them.
Don’t be surprised if your young adults know more about things like these than you do. In fact, you should expect that at some point. Right now, I am still in a position to keep an eye out for my family. I do my best to secure our home computers with basic cyber-security. I do not hold any super secret data from government organizations so I don’t think I would be on the radar of cyber-attacks. But you can never go wrong with being prepared. In fact, being paranoid may be a better term but I will leave that for another discussion.
That is security at home. But what about when they are not at home. Matthew spends an average of 6 hours in school. Those are 6 hours that he is vulnerable to cyber-attacks while he is on his own. He is currently aware that his smartphone is being monitored by a parenting app. I made it a point to let him know this because trust and privacy go both ways. I always talk to him about being safe online. During my youth, my mum would tell me never to talk to strangers or go with strangers or take anything from strangers. It is as true today as it did back then. Except now, there is an added advice of being wary of online strangers. This is a sad but real truth. Matthew plays games on his phone, on the computer and on a game console. All of these are connected to the Internet because manufacturers and game developers require most of their products to be connected in order to work. I have always seen this as a threat and as an invasion of privacy but you can’t really contain this for long unless you become a hermit. So education and stern warnings are normal between myself and Matthew. I am allowing him to play online games like Roblox. And yes, I am aware of these stern warnings from a parent that played the game and having encountered a less than ideal experience. I won’t deny that it is possible. But I have been playing games online and have never encountered any such activity. And as far as I am aware, neither has Matthew. Again, I’m not saying that it didn’t happen. I’m just saying, it hasn’t happened to us. As a parent, you are allowed to protect your child. Rather, it is your responsibility to protect your child from abuse. But do it in a way that works for both you and your child. Don’t take away something just because of a viral post that you read on social media. Do your own research and then make your own decision.
The parenting app that I use is only secondary. It is still the rules that we have set and agreed on as a family that takes precedence over things. We talk about the consequences of action and inaction on Matthew’s part and agree on the appropriate responses. In fact, he would sometimes offer that he gets grounded when he knows that he has done something that we would not be happy with. One of the rules that we have is that there should be no mobile phones/tablets in the bedroom. If you want to use your mobile, you are free to do so in the living room. This rule also applies when we are seated at the dining table and that is regardless if it is in the house or if we are eating out. No electronic devices at the table, period. Of course, it is not as smooth as everyone would like it to be. He would have excuses every now and then, but that is usually followed up with talk about the consequences. It goes full circle. Hopefully, he gets to keep it stuck in his head more. I have also warned him of using his mobile phone while walking which is something I frown on especially when grown-ups are up and about doing it. Look where you are going first. It’s very likely that whatever it is these people are staring at on their devices can actually wait until they are stationary.
It has never been foolproof. And there will always be loopholes here and there. But with ground rules, it at least becomes easier to manage. Prevention is always better than cure. And yes, maybe a little paranoia helps once in a while.