When your teenagers were born, you were probably getting your first cell phone and your computer still greeted you with “You’ve Got Mail.” It is no surprise that teenagers would rather text than talk, would rather Google than research and rely more Twitter than a newspaper. By staying on top of the latest technology trends and understanding how your teens use it, you can help guide them as an active part of their online behavior.
New Technology in 2012
Each new year brings new technology it’s either bigger and better, or it’s smaller and faster. One of the biggest trends in 2012 is e-readers. E-readers are any electronic devices that have reading capabilities for books, magazines, newspapers and sometimes web access. According to McGraw-Hill Education, 95% of their textbooks are also offered as ebooks. Mobile usage has completely exploded over the last 2 years with over 1.2 billion having a web capable handset within arm’s reach at all time. Tablet computers are also hitting the market in a big way, many of which hold almost all of the same capabilities of a full-size computer in a device smaller than a notepad.
The Good News:
Despite the risks associated with technology, it’s not all bad news. According to 2009 Parent-Teen Cell Phone Survey, teen’s trends in technology are not all that different than their parents. While teenagers love the Internet, they record spending far less time browsing than adults. They also report that many of teens’ favorite TV shows and top Web sites are mostly the same as their parents. This makes it easy to know what you’re teens are doing, it’s probably similar to the same things you are doing.
The Trouble With Too Much Technology
The problem with having a world’s worth of information at your fingertips is that you get up a world’s worth of false information at your fingertips. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project: Teens and Parents Survey in 2004, twenty-two percent of Internet-using teens say they have looked for information online about a topic that’s hard to talk about, like drug use, sexual health, or depression. That statistic was almost eight years ago. Today, you can almost guarantee that your teen is probably Googling more topics than you can think of. The problem with this is they are finding lots of information, picture and sometimes even video. And the bigger problem is much of the information is incomplete or absolutely incorrect.
Managing Your Teen’s Technology
It is important to actively manage your teen’s technology in order to maintain both an understanding and a limit to their access. Here are a few simple ideas to stay in top of your teen’s tech habits:
- Learn about your teen’s phone or tablet. Most tech devices are basically living track records, if you know how to use them. You need to be able to use your teen’s phone as well (if not better) than they do. Know how to check recent calls, read texts and ask your teen about any unidentified names or numbers they are contacting.
- Monitor your teen’s e-mails. Today, teens may be communicating with people all over the world, so it’s important to monitor their email and web history on a regular basis. Make it a clear rule that the web history on any computer is NEVER to be deleted, and know how to restore it if it is.
- Remind your teens that the Internet is public space. It is easy to forget that the entire world is online and teenagers often have a hard time seeing the big picture. Remind them that anyone and everything including college admissions offices, potential employers, and even grandma might be online at anytime.
- Explain the legal boundaries of the internet. The legislatures are still trying to figure out how to impose the rule of law in a digital age, and as a result, the internet functions much like the wild, wild west. Many thing online are not legal such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs marketing, weapons sales, and pornography. Explain to your teens that just because it is available does not make it legal and they can still be held responsible to the consequences.
What boundaries have you set for your teenagers, have you discussed the off-limits areas of the web? Do you have a problem with over-techy teens? Remember that the precautions you’d use in the real world are the same ones you should be using in the virtual world.