To support online safety for teenagers, teens need to be reminded about the difference between talking to strangers and trusting strangers.
Blogging is often between people who don’t know each other personally. When teens blog there is a good possibility they will be talking to strangers.
There is a difference between talking to strangers and trusting strangers.
These differences include:
- Thinking that you know someone personally because of what they write on the blog.
- Meeting anyone they know from the internet in person without your knowledge and consent.
- Giving personal information to people they speak with on the Internet. This includes all personal information that could be used to help an attacker identify them.
Here are a few tips to ensure online safety for teenagers.
Your teen shouldn’t discuss any of the following things without consulting you first.
1) What they look like
2) Where they live
- Their phone number or email
- The name of their school
- Anything else that might identify them
They shouldn’t consider telling these things to strangers they don’t know well. It is important to refrain from sharing personal information with people they can’t identify, except through their blog.
In a recent study to determine whether children are at risk for sexual abuse or harassment from blogging, the research showed the following things to be true:
- Bloggers were not more likely to interact with people they met online and did not know in person
- Youth who interacted with people they met online, regardless of whether…or not…they blogged, had higher odds of receiving online sexual solicitations.
- Bloggers who did not interact with people they met online were at no increased risk for sexual solicitation.
From these facts, it is safe to conclude that blogging itself does nothing to put your teen at a higher risk for abuse. Rather, it is having live interactions with people, who they have met online, which puts them at risk. Therefore, having good boundaries about meeting with strangers in general reduces the risk for unwanted sexual harassment or abuse.
There is no easy answer about if you should monitor your teen’s blogs.
It depends upon a lot of different factors. First and foremost, you should think about your relationship with your child as it relates to other social situations. If your teen has good boundaries and is always appropriate in his or her interactions, then it may not be necessary to check up on their blog posts unless you suspect a problem. However, if you find it necessary to always check up on your child in daily life, then it may be a good idea to monitor your child’s posts as well.
Since most blogs require subscription, you will need to request that your child accept your application to their blog. Even if your teen isn’t doing anything wrong, he or she may not want you to see everything they blog about, so getting accepted isn’t always an easy thing. If you can’t gain access, perhaps another adult that your child trusts can subscribe and keep an eye out for dangerous situations. That way your child can have their privacy, but there is someone watching who knows when to alert you. If the blog is an educational blog that is monitored by your teen’s teacher or school administrators, then it is probably safe if you don’t have access as well.
Online safety for teenagers is really no different than keeping them safe in general.
You should be clear that the same rules apply. If they know not to meet strangers or even people they marginally know, without your knowledge and permission, then they should also know not to meet people that they don’t know online. They should also be warned that not everyone on the internet is who they claim to be, and even if they post a photo, there is no way to know that the photo is genuine. If you feel the need to monitor your teen’s activities in general, then you should probably monitor their blogging as well.
If your child doesn’t want to allow you access, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are doing something bad. Rather, they want to be able to express themselves and maintain some privacy. An adult that both of you trust may have an easier time gaining access to your teen’s blog. If you follow the same instincts and keep the same rules that you use in general regarding online safety for teenagers, then blogging is as safe as any other activity that your teen may participate in.
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