By Raising Children Network
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Free time is important for children in the pre-teen years. They need it to explore interests, be with friends, unwind or pursue extracurricular activities. Many children like to spend time using media and technology. You can help your child enjoy the benefits and avoid the risks of media, technology, the internet and social networking.

Teenaged boy using an iPad

did you knowQuestion mark symbol

  • The average young person consumes 4 hours and 49 minutes of media in a typical day.
  • The average young Australian spends 1 hour and 17 minutes on the internet each day.
  • Social networking sites are visited by 28% of Australians aged 12-14, and 44% of those aged 15-17.
  • Three-quarters of Australians aged 12-14, and 90% of those aged 15-17, own a mobile phone.
 

Free time

Teenagers need free time to explore their own interests, be with friends or just unwind.

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.

A few ground rules about free time might come in handy too. 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 provide transport.

For free time at home, you could talk about how a healthy family lifestyle includes limits on daily screen time.

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.

Media use

There’s plenty of bad news out there about media, and how media influence might harm your child. 

For older children and 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.

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Media literacy is 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

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’. 

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying (or 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.

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

Internet safety 
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). 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 will block 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.

Video: Technology rules and restrictions

Download Video  46mb
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.
 
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  • Newsletter snippet: Pre-teens entertainment and technology: in a nutshell

    By Raising Children Network

    Free time is important for children in the pre-teen years. They need it to explore interests, be with friends, unwind or pursue extracurricular activities. And if you and your child can find free time activities to enjoy together, it can be a great way to build your relationship.

    Many children like to spend time using media and technology. There are benefits to media use for children in the pre-teen years, including the development of problem-solving, writing and critical thinking skills. Social networking is also an important way for young people to connect with each other.

    Responsible cybercitizenship can help your child get the benefits of being online while avoiding some of the risks, particularly when it comes to social networking. If your child experiences cyberbullying, there are steps you and your child can take to stop it.

    You can also help your child with online safety by monitoring, protecting and teaching her, and by learning about the internet yourself. Limits on screen time can be part of a healthy family lifestyle.

    This article is an extract only. For more information, visit http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/preteens_entertainment_nutshell.html.

    Sourced from the Raising Children Network’s comprehensive and quality-assured Australian parenting website www.raisingchildren.net.au.


 
 
 
  • Last Updated 19-09-2013
  • Last Reviewed 19-08-2013