Resources for Parents with Teen Kids About To Go Online
November 20, 2015 9:16 AM   Subscribe

My son is 12, and starting to participate in online communities. Right now, the only community he's interacting with is 4 friends of his from school; they play Minecraft. But I suspect this will soon change.

For example, he wants to start making those YouTube videos where he plays a video game and narrates as he plays. That means entering the big bad world of semi-public internet usage. I'm hoping there are books/sites with advice/suggestions for parents who need to navigate this and also both protect the kids from stranger danger and teach their kids to be good, decent, kind citizens.
posted by eustacescrubb to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
My 12 year old daughter has her own youtube channel. Thankfully, so does everyone else's 12 year old. My daughter has one follower. She rarely gets any views, even though she posts twice a week. She's been doing this for almost a year. Basically, it's like someone peeing in the pool. It doesn't feel right but, there is so much water in the pool, it isn't going to be noticed.

Keep all screens in a public area of the house. Your twelve year old boy is more at risk of friends sending him porn links than being cyber bullied by posting a youtube video. Insist that he use the same password for all of his accounts and it is one that you can easily remember. Tell him that if he shares the password with any of his friends, you will shut him down. Let him know that you are watching. Listen to him ramble on in great, boring detail about all of his games. It's when he stops talking that you have to start snooping.
posted by myselfasme at 9:44 AM on November 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I can't recommend specific sources, but the absolute most important advice I can give is SUPERVISE.

And that means don't just TELL them you're going to, actually DO it, frequently.

Second to that is require that you be informed of passwords for everything. One way I've found that makes it easy to teach them good password skills (all different) and yet keep it easily accessible to me is to install and teach them to use LastPass. Keep a copy of their LastPass password. If you start early, they rely on it... and yet their passwords are easy for you to see.

A teen does not have a right to privacy that is more important than your job(s) of ensuring their safety and raising them to be a decent human being.
posted by stormyteal at 9:47 AM on November 20, 2015

I'm not a parent, but your question reminded me of a free online course I recently noticed is being offered by the Open University starting in February, called Childhood in the Digital Age.

It may or may not be the kind of thing you'd be interested in, but it's free to sign up for, you can complete it totally at your own pace from anywhere in the world, and if it ends up not being a good fit, there's no downside to dropping it part way through (or even to signing up but never actually starting it).
posted by Asterism at 9:49 AM on November 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

Also be careful of letting him have accounts easily tied to his real name, particularly if his postings are: a) available to Google b) difficult to delete.
posted by typecloud at 10:30 AM on November 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Check the archives of the Note to Self podcasts.Host Manoush Zomorodi presents material about the effects of tech on our lives. She's very smart, current, and has knowledgeable guests. Many episodes are about kids, schools, and family.
posted by valannc at 10:57 AM on November 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

He'll be fine.

If he doesn't know more than you about the Internet already, he will very soon.

Just turn him loose.
posted by paulcole at 11:21 AM on November 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

As with a lot of parenting questions, do you need a special resource? If you have concerns, you can always be open about them with your kid(s).

I've got three teens (well actually one teen is now 20 but I'm so used to saying that phrase). My experience is that you either will or won't be granted the benefit of your kids trusting your role in their social lives during their coming of age years. If they feel like your role is legitimate and reasonable, they'll trust you. If they feel like your role is tyrannical and arbitrary, they won't trust you.

A common way to seem a tyrant is to (pretend? imagine?) that a parent can effectively police a kid's online experience. This was impossible when you were young (remember?) and it's impossible now. Internet access isn't like a toy or an object that a parent can easily withhold. It's intangible and accessible from everywhere. Try to take away a computer or a phone and they'll use a friend's, or go to the library, or... anywhere. So that's my first bit of advice (and only advice, really): be realistic with yourself about how influential you are.

Some more thoughts about this from a recent, related ask.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 11:26 AM on November 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

This isn't an area of parenting where you can set it and forget it. Your teen child and technology both change rapidly so what he needs in terms of supervision at age 12 won't be what he needs at 13, 14, 15, and so on. You'll probably need to revisit how you approach this issue on a continual basis. I think it is realistic to expect that your involvement in his internet life will be heavier now and will lighten as he ages.

As with all things that are potentially "risky" for teens the best approach is to talk, talk, talk about it, but not in an overbearing or intrusive way. Stay positively involved in other areas of his life and concentrate on developing a relationship with him around shared interests. The strongest parent-teen relationships I've witnessed are ones where they have a hobby that everyone in the family enjoys, which gives them a built-in way to spend time with one another.
posted by scantee at 12:17 PM on November 20, 2015

My teen son plays online and has a YouTube channel, like every other kid out there. In no particular order:

* he should not use his real name anywhere online, even in his Facebook profile. Nowhere!
* when he games online, he will come across creeps who creepy. Let him know he can talk to you about any of it.
* he may want to disable comments for his YouTube channel. People write some disturbing stuff.

As long as you keep an eye on what he's doing, it'll be fine.
posted by kinetic at 1:29 PM on November 20, 2015

There are several previous AskMes with more good thoughts on this.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:35 PM on November 20, 2015

Which doesn't mean this isn't a good Ask! Sorry realize I might have sounded curt. I had started typing some things up and then realized I was just recapitulating what other people had already said.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:37 PM on November 20, 2015

Whether via online "communities" or just by having internet access, he is very likely to have even more exposure to pornography the more time he spends online. He is past the age at which the average American boy first starts watching pornography (average is age 10).

If you haven't talk to him about pornography, especially about violent pornography and how pornography is different from real life, now is definitely the time. Here is a good resource about how to approach it.
posted by amaire at 4:27 PM on November 20, 2015

Oh yeah, porn. A few years ago I mentioned here when my son asked me why all women liked getting choked. Someone from the New York Times saw that and I ended up being quoted in an article about kids seeing porn because thanks, internet.

Your kid has seen and will continue to see a lot of porn. If not on his computer, on a friend's computer.

You have to talk to him about it, to explain that these are people being paid (just like in Avatar) to make things appear a certain way (just like in Avatar) and that what he sees on the internet has NO BEARING on reality (just like Avatar). You can see what movie was big the year Kinetic 3 and I talked about porn.

Have the porn talk.
posted by kinetic at 5:13 AM on November 21, 2015

Hi, I was one of the first generations of tweens who came of age on the internet. In terms of burgeoning sexuality, I agree that instead of restricting access to porn, you should talk about porn. Also, don't talk about "strangers." Predators won't seem like strangers. They'll befriend your son first to make him feel safe. Instead, talk about tricky people. Adults who want to talk about sex with kids and teenagers, even if they've been friends for awhile, are being tricky. And of course remind him that people aren't always who they seem to be. Generally, if a conversation seems weird or uncomfortable, even if it's with someone he knows, he should tell you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:06 AM on November 22, 2015

« Older How to buy (and/or get insurance to pay for) a...   |   Middle School Honors Performance Series at... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.