Respecting Your Child’s Privacy While Protecting Them from Online Dangers

Trust is one of the most universal components of modern society. Trust can permit someone a driver’s license, trust can build a relationship, and trust can end a war. Where trust matters most to the everyday person however, is in their personal lives. The expectation in society is that as a kid grows from a child to an adolescent that the amount of trust within the relationship will grow with it. This begs the question though, how far should this trust stretch? In the age of technology, it is becoming increasingly difficult for parents to accept that they cannot control everything that their children do online. In an effort to take back that control, many say that monitoring kid’s phones is the best way to protect them. The underdeveloped state of a child’s brain, the potential for internet addiction, and the constant dangers of online and texting mistakes are reasons why some monitoring of a minor’s use of their phone is necessary.

On the most fundamental level, the brain of a child or teenage is still maturing. Their ability to think critically about a situation and make a good decision quickly is lacking and it can lead to devastating results. During these critical years of a young person’s life, their brain is creating more and more grey matter which is used to process information. Through experiences and learning, the grey matter will thicken and the child will learn to make logical decisions faster.

An example of this inadequate thinking ability could be seen in 2014 when a young girl was kidnapped on her way to school because of unsupervised usage of a messaging application on her phone. When twelve-year-old, “Jane Doe”, never made it to school one morning, her mother was quick to call for a search party. During the investigation, the detectives found that the child and her suspected abductor had been chatting for a while on the “Kik” application, a social media platform. Which, in a conversation with another person, Jane Doe says she couldn’t tell her mother about her scary conversations with her future abductor because “[She was] not supposed to have [Kik] so [she] would get in big trouble”. While in captivity, this girl reflected on how she had learned her lesson of using apps like that without her parents’ consent. Being so young, Ms. Doe did not think about the possible consequences in time to avoid this tragic event. Had her mother been active in monitoring her phone, Jane could have reduced the probability of harm from occurring.

Coinciding with the developing brain of a child is the higher risk for addiction. Not only has this been seen with drugs and dangerous substances, but also with technology and the internet. Children, teens especially, are at the greatest risk for addiction and research shows that the earlier a person begins to use an addictive substance, the more likely he or she is to develop serious problems. As much as a brain or apathy can be blamed for this problem, much of the problem can be attributed to the intent of app creators. From the design of the logo to the function of the app itself; creators of such apps intend it to be addictive. According to Tristan Harris, an Ex-Google Employee, smartphone applications are made to be similar to slot machines. “When we pull our phone out of our pocket, we’re playing a slot machine to see what notifications we got. When we pull to refresh our email, we’re playing a slot machine to see what new email we got. When we swipe down our finger to scroll the Instagram feed, we’re playing a slot machine to see what photo comes next”.

Allowing children to spend more than two hours every day in constant connection with the internet can lead to unfavorable psychological effects. Many studies have reported associations between Internet addiction and psychiatric symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-efficacy, etc. among adolescents. It is less likely that you will see children playing kickball in the front yard and more likely that they will be killing enemies in Call of Duty, a popular first person shooter game. Along with monitoring what they do on their cell phones or online and controlling the amount of time they are on them can increase their chances at a happier and healthier life.

The purpose of keeping an eye on a child’s online and personal interactions is to protect them and should be done with their complete knowledge. To make all rules and provisions clear, many families have turned to the idea of a technology contract. These lay out specific guidelines that often provide reasonable expectations for both the child and the parent. By placing limits and rules for both parties, it will make the younger party feel more responsible and in control, which often leads to better decision making. The monitoring of a child’s phone and online activity should be implemented but with reasonable limitations and respect for their privacy.


Teen Depression & Self-Esteem

How Teen Depression is Related to Teen Self-Esteem

Teen Depression and Self EsteemTeenager depression is nothing new, but when teens are feeling blue, their self-esteem suffers just as much as their emotions. There are many reasons to why this is occurring, but there are three areas that the depression resonates from: school, the internet, and home. Each one of these is out of a teen’s control, unless they brought the pain upon themselves. Regardless, teens and depression have become part of the mainstream and it’s not a good thing.

School was once a place that kids went to learn and socialize with friends. However, some teens these days would rather be home schooled and socialize with friends over an online video game. Aside from bullies, school brings the same kids together for 180 days out of the year. Once a teen is teased or embarrassed for something they said or did, this forces the teen to deal with the same ridicule every day after.

It’s like a tragic scene from a movie repeating itself over and over again and doesn’t stop. This can almost diminish a teen’s self-esteem to nothing if left unchecked. It doesn’t have to be for the same reason either. The fact that they’re being picked on every day is enough to keep the depression going. With teens on the internet more often than they were in 2001, places like Facebook and Twitter have become new avenues for bullies and other classmates to trash each other. Some do it anonymously, while others prefer to let themselves be known by everyone.

It’s no different from the teasing and trash talk from school. The only difference is where they do it and how often. While the ones teasing the teens may not send messages directly, they’ll post updates calling them out by name. This can go on for months and build over time. It’s as bad as having 35,000 people calling you every offensive word that exists nonstop. That’s another one of the ways a teen’s self-esteem can be damaged.

At home, teenager depression can be caused by whatever is going on at home. Deaths in the family, domestic situations, sickness, and work ethic can affect a teen’s self-esteem as well. Pushing them to make straight A’s can backfire, especially if the parent believes or sends the message that their teen will become worthless if they don’t. This happens when a teen with parents like this get angry at them for get an A- instead of an A+, which lowers the teen’s self-esteem and their grades as well.

Teenage depression is a tough thing to deal with, but there are ways to make things right. At home, adults can make things better by being more involved in a teen’s life other than school and work. If they have people on Facebook posting hateful messages online, help them get some positive ones to balance it out. If the problem is just at school, tell the principal to put a stop to it. Teenage depression will always exist, but it doesn’t have to affect every teen and their self-esteem.

Teens Take BIG Risks Online

Teens Take BIG Risks Online, New Study Says

“The Secret Online Lives of Teens” Reveals Dangerous Behaviors and Online Trends

Teens Risks Online

A shocking new report released called “The Secret Online Lives of Teens” is a revealing peek at just how much our kids risk when they interact online, and one expert believes it’s more than just a wake-up call.

The study, conducted by Harris Interactive for McAfee, asked 955 American teens (including 593 aged 13-15 and 362 aged 16-17) about their attitudes on Internet privacy. The results are troubling for any parents of teenagers.

  • 69 percent of teens freely divulged their physical location
  • 28 percent chatted with strangers

Of those who chatted with strangers, defined as people they do not know in the offline world:

  • 43 percent shared their first name
  • 24 percent shared their email address
  • 18 percent posted photos of themselves
  • 12 percent posted their cell phone number

What’s more, girls make themselves targets more often than boys: 32% of the girl respondents indicated they chat with strangers online vs. 24% of boy respondents, according to the survey.

Mary Kay Hoal, a concerned mom and global media expert who addressed her Internet safety issues by creating a social network exclusively for kids and teens – – believes that this is more than just a wake-up call for parents and teens.

“This study is Pearl Harbor in the war against Internet predators,” she said. “While the headline always changes from cyber bullies to privacy issues, what remains constant, and will continue to, is the risky behavior teens can participate in. If you don’t want your kids participating in certain behaviors offline, why would you permit them online? If you tell them not to talk to strangers at the mall, why allow it on the Internet? Parents need to take notice now, and they need to teach their kids about the dangers of predators. It’s very real.”

Hoal has been studying this issue for more than 4 years, having created Yoursphere as a response to her own daughter establishing profiles behind her back on social networking sites. Her goal is to create a positive place for kids and teens that offers all the best the Internet has to offer, without the dangers of predators, bullies and others who seek to use the anonymity of the Internet to victimize children.

“As parents, we need to do three things right now,” she said. “We need to learn about the online dangers for kids and teach our kids about them, just as we’d talk to them about drugs, sex, learning to drive a car or ride a bike safely. Next, we need to show our kids how to protect their online and offline privacy, so the predators and bullies are less capable of taking advantage of them. Finally, we need to set up a set of rules for our kids for their online lives that match their rules for their offline lives. The most effective litmus test is this: If the activity or behavior in question is inappropriate offline, then it is inappropriate online, as well. The combination of anonymity and technology that exists online can create a wide variety of hazards for teens, getting in the way of all the good things that exist for them on the Internet. We need to be able to use basic, common sense safety guidelines to help clear that path.”

About Mary Kay Hoal

A proud wife and mother of five children (both biological and adopted, ranging in age from 6 – 19 years old), Mary Kay faces the same challenges every parent does. After researching the disturbing landscape of social networking sites — including endless inappropriate content and thousands of predators targeting youth — Mary Kay conceived and founded, a free and positive place for kids and teens online as well as, where parents can find tools and information to create a safety-first experience for their families.