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It Is Your Business
March  2023 

Time spent online is now a standard part of most people‘s lives, both adults and teens.  The digital age has created another layer of complexity for today‘s parent. It is common for parents to struggle with how to stay involved in their teen‘s online activity. Parents are the most often cited source of advice and the biggest influence on teens' understanding of appropriate and inappropriate digital behavior.

This Snapshot provides information and suggestions to help parents balance their teen‘s need for privacy and independence with their parental job of providing protection.

Make the Smartphone a Safephone
Phones offer both communication and safety benefits for parents and teens. However, like most technologies, they also pose some safety risks to adolescents. In order to better protect your child, it‘s important to know the steps you can take to make their phone use safer.

Take the time to learn about what features are included on your child's phone. Are there pre-installed apps (such as Instagram® and Facebook®) or games that you need to become more familiar with? Do you understand how the location-based services work and why it may be a good idea to turn location services off for photos and apps?
Early on, set the expectation that you will monitor your teen‘s use of their phone. It‘s important that you follow through on what you have told your teen, and as required, enforce consequences for any inappropriate behaviour/actions.
Set a time every evening at which all technology, including phones, are shut off in the house. Also, establish guidelines around texting and gaming (who teens can do these things with and on what sites/apps).

Explore the possibility of blocking access to sites (such as those with sexually explicit content) by using the settings on the device and/or parental control apps or by contacting the carrier/service provider.
Discuss the importance of not responding to harassing, harmful or unsolicited calls or messages sent to them and to save these types of messages. Teach your child how to block calls and  messages from unwanted users and reinforce the importance of talking to a safe adult if in receipt of these types of messages.

Teens will make mistakes. Re-establish the boundaries around responsible phone use and remind your child on a regular basis that they can talk to you about any issues they may be facing.
Unsure if your child is ready for a smartphone? Visit the Elementary Snapshot.
Stay Involved
Typically, teens are highly skeptical of parental involvement and will swiftly leap to the classic phrase, “It‘s none of your business.” Rest assured that it is your business! While teens can feel ready to take on the world, their brains are still developing and they are not yet at a place where they can properly deal with all the situations.
Your involvement is very important. Below are some strategies you can integrate into daily life to stay involved in your teen‘s online activities and increase their safety. Adolescents can earn that right to more privacy by demonstrating good digital literacy and maturity over time.
Reinforce the public nature of the internet. Let your teen know that once a picture/video or information is sent, they lose control over what is done with it. If your teen has been negatively impacted by a picture/video being shared by peers, they can visit for practical steps to take to regain control over the situation.
Regularly engage in conversation with your teen about the apps or sites they are using. Remain informed about the online spaces where youth may be negatively impacted and have ongoing discussions. Sign up for Alerts to remain informed of the emerging issues facing tweens/teens. 
Talk about the risks associated with live streaming. What happens over live stream can be easily recorded – don‘t be fooled by thinking it is live and therefore “no big deal.”  Pre-recorded content can also be live streamed so unless the other person is known to be offline, there is no way of verifying who is on the other end of the camera and you should proceed with caution, or preferably not at all. 
For information on the laws regarding cyberbullying, posting non-consensual photos or videos and sextortion see the Secondary Snapshot.
Discuss the importance of seeking help. Identify situations when it would be important to tell you, or another safe adult, about an uncomfortable or potentially unsafe situation. Acknowledge that while this may be a difficult step for your child to take, their safety is your number one priority and you are there to help them. Discuss what might happen if they don‘t seek help from a safe adult and emphasize that it is never too late to come to you for help, even if they have made a mistake.
Watch For Signs
It‘s important to pay attention to changes in your teen‘s typical behaviour patterns, as well as changes in the intensity of their behaviour. 

Some signs that may indicate the need for increased involvement and communication with your teen include:They seem more withdrawn, sad, anxious, defensive, angry or secretive.
They have lost interest in activities that they‘ve normally enjoyed.
They have significantly increased or decreased the amount of time they spend online.
They do not respond to limits placed on how often and how long they spend online.
They are complaining of stomach aches or headaches.
They develop problems with sleeping patterns, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep 

What to do if you notice concerning behaviour

If you discover that your teen is pushing boundaries online, they may need some adult direction to re-establish the line. It is typical for teens to break boundaries, especially if they think adults aren‘t aware. Sometimes all it takes to get them back on the right track is knowing an adult is monitoring them more closely.
Here are some steps to consider:
  • Calmly communicate your concerns and be emotionally available for your teen. They will likely resist your involvement – do not back down. It is their job to test limits and your job to set them.
  • Increase your involvement to become more visible in your teen‘s online activity.
  • Increase direct supervision and directly monitor your teen‘s online activities, including their phone.
  • Check their social networking, chat and messaging sites/apps. 
  • Enforce limits on your teen‘s use of their devices. Depending on the level of concern for your teen‘s behaviour, you may consider taking away access for a limited time.
Simply knowing that you are aware and monitoring may be enough to change your teen‘s behaviour.

Build your relationship with your teen. Create opportunities to do things together. Even if your teen is resistant, the message you are sending by wanting to spend time with them is that you care which unto itself is a powerful protective factor.
For more information on youth and social media you can refer to previous Snapshots.
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Resources and Sources
What to do if your child
is being cyberbullied

How to talk to your
kids about sexting

How to talk to your
kids about sextortion


Parents' Ultimate Guides

Struggling to keep up with the apps, games, and websites your kids are using? Common Sense's Parents' Ultimate Guides can help keep you up to date and answer your questions about all the latest platforms and trends. 
Click on images to read the Guides. 
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Every month FamilySmart hosts events for families. The March topic is A Conversation for Families About Digital Wellbeing & Mental Health

As parents It's not easy to know how much time on technology is too much and how to set boundaries that don't create conflict.

Join us for a conversation with a digital wellbeing expert to learn some practical solutions to our everyday concerns and challenges around our kids' use of screens and their mental health.

In cased you missed it... last month's Snapshot was on resolving conflict!

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The content provided through the Snapshots is for information purposes only. The Snapshots include information that is general in nature and cannot address the many individual child rearing challenges parents and caregivers may experience. Therefore it is the readers‘ responsibility to determine the suitability of the information for their specific needs.

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