Whether you're a parent or grandparent, you know how tough raising kids can be, especially once they hit their teens. It's gotten even worse in this digital age, where an embarrassing moment can be caught on camera, posted on Facebook and go viral within a few hours' time.
But, in this high-tech, fast-paced world, it's also difficult to keep up with everything that could put your kids and grandkids at risk. And, once you finally figure it out, you then have to figure out the best way to get that message across to your teenager. I have the same struggles when it comes to my son, Ian. But, these are the key messages I believe are critical to get across to him.
1. Full disclosure on laptops, tablets and cellphones
Far too often, I hear from parents when it's too late. It's only when Little Johnny or Janey gets in trouble that they reach out for help. Of course, we hear a lot about kids getting in trouble with the Internet and cellphones. They get suspended from school for comments they've posted online. They use their cellphones to send nude pictures of themselves. And they bully their classmates online.
That's why Ian and I have a full disclosure policy. Before I give him any device, I make sure he understands that I have full access, and can check it any time. But, when it comes to teenagers, it's not enough to set boundaries alone. You can't just say that you'll check in on their computers and phones, you have to actually do it.
Here's an example. Just the other day, I asked Ian for his phone so I could look something up online. At first, he hesitated and pulled his phone back out of reach. That's when I gave him "the look," which he knows all too well. Without saying anything, it told him, "We had a deal," and Ian quickly handed me his phone, and said, "Kidding!"
You might think that checking their devices feels like snooping, or spying. But, it doesn't have to. Every now and then, just ask to use their phone to look something up online, or use their laptop to check your email. If you openly share devices for regular use, then it's always in the back of their mind whenever they're alone.