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It's common for younger teens to experience periods of low self esteem, seek the approval of their friends, and be less willing to accommodate their parents' expectations. Older teenagers need both group identity and independence, and tend to reconcile their family and peer values. In late adolescence, kids also mature and are ready to interact with the world on an intellectual level. Generally, teens are open to new ideas but lack the life experience to judge their validity. It is important for parents to continue to play an active role in guiding their older children's use of the Internet.
What teens do online
Teens download music, use instant messaging (IM), e-mail, and play online games. They also actively use search engines to find information on the Internet. Most teens have visited chat rooms, and many have participated in adult or private chats. Boys in this age group are more likely to push the boundaries by looking for gross humor, gore, gambling, or explicit adult sites. Girls may be more likely to chat online and therefore may be more susceptible to being sexually solicited online.
Safety tips
Here are some safety tips to consider as you guide your teens online:
Create a list of Internet house rules with your teens. You should include the kinds of sites that are off limits, Internet hours, and guidelines for communicating with others online, including in chat rooms.
Keep Internet-connected computers in an open area and out of your teens' bedrooms.
Talk to your kids about their online friends and activities just as you would about their other friends and activities. This includes talking to your teens about their instant messaging list, and making sure they're not talking to strangers.
Investigate Internet-filtering tools (such as MSN Premium's Parental Controls) as a complement—not a replacement—for parental supervision.
Know which chat rooms or message boards your teens visit, and whom they talk to. Encourage them to use monitored chat rooms, and insist they stay in public chat room areas.
Insist that they never agree to meet an online friend.
Teach your teens never to give out personal information without your permission when using e-mail, chat rooms, or instant messaging, filling out registration forms and personal profiles, and entering online contests.
Teach your kids not to download programs, music, or files without your permission. File-sharing and taking text, images, or artwork from the Web may infringe on copyright laws and can be illegal.
Encourage your teens to tell you if something or someone online makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened. Stay calm and remind your kids they are not in trouble for bringing something to your attention. (It is important that your teen does not think that their computer privileges could be taken away.) Read more about how to deal with online predators and cyberbullies.
Talk to your teenagers about online adult content and pornography, and direct them to positive sites about health and sexuality.
Ages 2 to 4
Ages 5 to 6
Ages 7 to 8
Ages 9 to 12
Ages 13 to 17
A parent's guide to online safety Ages and stages
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How to help your kids use social networking Web sites more safely
Improve your family web security in 4 steps
Using family contracts to help protect your kids online
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