Virtual Society: Texting, Chatting, E-mailing, and Blogging
The world is a much different place than when you were a child. Parents used to know everyone who lived on the street and knew if there was something to worry about. Now the boundaries teens face encompass not one street but the entire virtual and technological world. Your son may use his cell phone to chat and text message people; he may do homework and blog online — in short, there is no end to the possibilities for teens and technology these days.
An online survey by Teenage Research Unlimited showed nearly a quarter of teens in relationships have communicated with their boyfriend/girlfriend between midnight and 5 A.M. using a cell phone.
Teens find that there are an infinite number of things to do online. They may use it for scholastic purposes: homework, research, and reading school blogs. Many teachers use the Internet to post assignments and links. But your teen may also be blogging, chatting, and looking at objectionable material — or even posting objectionable material, including inappropriate pictures of himself or others. Be sure you have a plan in place for how to deal with these issues.
Your teen has access to such a vast array of technology that it may seem overwhelming to you. This is something to keep in mind as you incorporate technologies into his life and yours. For example, while you may view a cell phone as a necessary tool for keeping tabs on your son, he can use his cell phone to call people, text message, and chat online — actions that are out of your control. These devices can be used for nefarious purposes — like finding drugs or arranging a way to sneak out of the house — and are harder than you think to track. Be wise and supervise any technology your son uses.
If your son uses the Internet, chances are he has been to sites like
One of the most important rules about keeping your son safe online is to know what he is doing. This may mean you need to take a class to become a bit more computer literate. This will help you know what your son does and what he talks about when it comes to being online.
Teens like to find answers for themselves. The guide at the Teen Advice Web site (
You should have firm rules about using the Internet and the other technologies associated with it. These rules should include what is acceptable and what is not as well as the consequences if the rules are broken. Some rules might include the following:
No computers are allowed in teen bedrooms, only in common areas.
Internet software is installed to track and/or block certain sites or keywords.
The Internet is not used without a parent in the room.
Your son should never post any personal information online.
Your son will not link to pages of others who give this information away.
Your son will only use certain approved sites and technologies.
There are time limits and hours of operation.
Your son may not physically meet with anyone he met online.
Your son should tell a parent immediately if anyone online makes him feel uncomfortable.
Make sure your son knows that these rules are for his own safety, not to make his life unnecessarily complicated. He must understand that using the Internet is a privilege; it's a fun and useful tool, but it can also be abused.