Teenagers need free time to explore their own interests, be with friends or just unwind.
A few ground rules about free time might come in handy. If your child is hanging out with friends,
for example, you and your child could talk about whether you need to
know where your child will be, who she’ll be with and whether you’ll
For free time at home, you could talk about how a healthy family lifestyle includes limits on daily screen time.
If you and your child can find free time activities to enjoy together,
it can be a great way to build your relationship. An occasional movie
together, or even a quick meal or a drink in a café after another
activity, can feel a bit special.
Teenagers are also spending an
increasing amount of their free time in structured extracurricular activities such as arts and sports. Good time management can help your
child get the benefits of these activities without feeling that he’s
doing too much.
There’s plenty of bad news out there about media, and how media influence might harm your child.
For teenagers, there are actually lots of benefits from media and media use. For example, they can develop problem-solving, writing and critical
thinking skills by playing computer games, or using blogs, chat rooms
and message boards.
Many teenagers use social networking sites like Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and Snapchat to talk with friends, and to share their ideas and creative outputs. This is an important way for them to connect with each other, socialise and feel part of a peer group.
Teenagers are also keen creators of online content. Many use cameras, mobile phones and
computers to upload and share items, such as videos and photos, on
the internet. They also spend a lot of time watching content that has
been created by other users, rather than the material produced by
corporations or network television production companies.
about having the skills to access, understand, question and create
media, such as DVDs, photographs, print and online content.
Media-literate children and teenagers are safer online and less likely
to be manipulated by the media. You can help your child develop media
literacy by getting involved when she’s using media.
Responsible cybercitizenship can
help your child get the benefits of using the internet while avoiding
some of the risks, particularly when it comes to social networking. You
and your child could talk together about:
- considering online privacy
- treating online friends with as much respect as those he meets face-to-face
- remembering that it’s often hard to ‘read’ emotion in emails and online posts
- deleting rude or nasty comments made on profile pages
- blocking or ‘unfriending’ people who don’t treat him with respect
- being careful about the comments he posts and the photos he uploads
- reporting abuse
- being cautious about identity, because not everyone online is who they say they are
- accepting ‘friend requests’ only from people he knows
- sharing only as much personal information as necessary
- keeping privacy settings up to date on social networking sites
- keeping passwords and log-in details private and secret from friends
- logging out after using public computers, such as at a library or café.
Uploading content to the internet creates an ‘online reputation’, which is very hard to change or erase. If all else fails, encourage your child to
remember the ‘nanna rule’: ‘If you wouldn’t want your nanna to see it,
don’t put it online’.
online bullying) is using modern communication technology to
deliberately and repeatedly harrass, humiliate, embarrass, torment,
threaten, pick on or intimidate someone.
Cyberbullying happens in lots of different ways – by mobile phone,
text messages and email, or through social networking sites. Examples of cyberbullying include sending anonymous
threatening emails, spreading rumours on the school e-bulletin board to
break up friendships, or setting up an unkind or unpleasant fake
social networking account using real photos and contact details.
‘Sexting’ – using mobile phones to create, upload or distribute sexual material – is another example of how modern communication technology can be used in ways that might hurt others.
Some warning signs that your child might be the victim of cyberbullying include things such as your child:
- being upset during or after using the internet
- withdrawing from friends and activities
- being more moody than usual, or showing obvious changes in behaviour, sleep or appetite
- spending much longer than usual online, or refusing to use the computer at all
- exiting or clicking out of a computer activity if someone else walks by.
If teenagers are being bullied online, it’s great for them to feel they
have some power to resolve the problem on their own. Our steps to stop cyberbullying
explains how your child can G.E.T. R.I.D. of the bully
– in pictures.
Other concerns about teenagers and internet use
You can help your child with internet safety by monitoring, protecting and teaching her, and by learning about the internet yourself.
Here are some tips for promoting internet safety in your family:
- Keep the computer in a shared area if you can, rather than having it a bedroom.
- Write an internet use agreement with your child. This can help make rules and consequences clear.
- Look into email and internet screening or filtering programs.
- Make sure your child knows that sharing music and other files over the internet is against the law.
- Tell your child always to let you know if an online friend he doesn’t know in real life wants to meet.
Too much internet/computer use
Most teenagers don’t find it hard to stay away from the internet for
several days at a time. But if you’re worried about the amount of time
your child spends online or on the computer by herself, you could try:
- looking for opportunities for your child to take part in a wide range of physical and social activities
- setting reasonable limits on internet or game use with your child, as well as consequences for not sticking to the limits
- agreeing on times of day that will be game free.
Inappropriate and dangerous content
Children might be only one or two clicks away from violent, pornographic
or offensive material (even accidentally). This can be an issue for
older children and teenagers with girlfriends or boyfriends, who might introduce them
to content they normally wouldn’t see. You can protect your child by:
- using a screening program or filter to block entry to certain
websites – filters aren’t 100% effective but are worth looking into
- installing a program that blocks emails or web pages containing unsuitable keywords
- letting your child know what to look out for
- talking calmly with your child if he comes across this kind of material.
Technology rules and restrictions
In this short video, parents and teenagers together discuss the family rules that apply to technology, media use and screen time. Issues include time restrictions on computer use, trusting teenagers to use the internet responsibly, and privacy issues when using chat rooms and other social media, such as Facebook.