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Lauren B. Stevens
Lauren B. Stevens is a freelance writer and influential blogger. She is passionate about social media and literature.
July 24, 2012Net Nanny for Android 2.0
May 22, 2017
Ah, summer vacation, a time filled with late nights, afternoon wakeups and a lot of downtime. The best way to encourage your teen to make the most of their summer is to establish expectations and rules for summer internet usage.
As a parent, you need to communicate your expectations regarding internet and social media usage before heading into summer vacation. Discuss appropriate usage, both in terms of time spent online and your child's behavior online.
Opening the lines of communication with your child regarding internet usage should also establish the expectation that your child will alert you when an online interaction or situation feels threatening or uncomfortable for them. Tip: Make them feel included and heard in the process.
Having your teen sign a contract of internet usage illustrates their responsibility and maturity in online forums. When you're outlining your rules for summer internet usage, review the contract together and post the signed contract near the computer as a reminder of expectations. Get your own family contract here.
One of the best ways to balance your child's internet usage over summer vacation is to provide fun alternatives to surfing the internet...like, you know, actually surfing! If a beach vacation is in the plans, sign your teen up for surfing lessons to keep them active and occupied. Planning a staycation? Check with your local community center for summer activities – many communities offer interest-focused camps, from sports to the arts, for teens to participate in at reduced rates for residents.
For times when your teen is at home, establish balance by requiring your teen to have some type of physical activity (chores, walk, active exercise) before having downtime online.
(Not to be mistaken with the FaceTime app) Make one-on-one time with others (in-person) a requirement before your teen hops online. It can be a simple catch-up conversation with a parent or sibling or a get-together with a friend. According to Psychology Today, "It's much easier to injure friendships online than in person because of the ease of creating misunderstandings electronically." Enforce face-to-face communication to stave off an interpersonal skill deficit with your teen, their future employer will thank you.
Pew Research Center reports that 57% of teens make friends online. This is great for expanding one's worldview and social network, but can also be risky. Make sure you thoroughly screen the friends your teen is making online, and if your teen plans to meet an online friend in person, plan the outing in a public place with yourself or your partner in attendance.
Work with your children when they create online profiles to ensure that personal identity information is not accidentally being shared. Cyber predators do their research, often putting together information gleaned from multiple platforms. To avoid over-sharing, (See Net Nanny's article on oversharing) agree upon the details your child is allowed to share in their online profiles and enforce consistency across platforms. As a guideline, your child should not be sharing his full name, email address, phone number or address. If a platform requires location information, have your child simply leave the state in which he lives; if you must enter a city, choose the major city closest to you as your child's location.
While your teen is tempted to post all of their summer adventures in online forums, establish a no check-in rule from the very beginning. Not only does it advertise your vacant home while on vacation, but it reveals your child's whereabouts to strangers who may have less than honorable intentions.
Set a cut-off time at night for your teen to unplug and turn off their screens. Yes, they're likely going to be keeping later hours over their summer break, but if you're not awake to monitor interactions, your teen shouldn't be online. Net Nanny® parental control software allows parents to pause the internet during the hours their child should be sleeping.
If you're asking your teen to spend more time tuned into real-life personal interactions, you should be modeling that behavior yourself. Unplug and avoid the urge to check emails and spend time on social media, especially when on vacation – be in the moment with your family! Turn your phone notifications off if it's too much of a temptation.
The Internet is a useful tool, from discovering and researching vacation destinations to keeping in contact with close friends and family. Setting summer internet usage guidelines for your family will help you make the most of the summer break, keep you safe, and most importantly, promote meaningful time spent together.