Part 1 in a series – Many parents we talk to are overwhelmed by the idea of what their teens or pre teens are doing online. Here’s where you can start.
If you’ve read what we’ve written here in the past, you probably recall that we are not proponents of checking every website visited or every message sent or post shared by your teen or pre teen. You won’t be able to keep up. We do encourage parents to have a basic understanding of what their kids are doing online, both to ensure that minors are safe online, but also to be able to guide more responsible behavior. Fear of college admission being denied, a scholarship not offered or future employment opportunities being marginalized by a negative online reputation should be very real concerns.
A question we hear from overwhelmed parents frequently is, “Where do I start?”
The first step should be checking your child’s computer – whichever one he uses most frequently – to see which websites or social media sites he has been visiting. It’s easier than you might think, and unless your kid clears his browsing history after every online session, the results should be illuminating. Keeping in mind that you need to know which browser your child is using, here’s how:
Checking browser history in Google Chrome:
Open a new Chrome browser window and click on the Tools Menu (usually the right-most icon in the toolbar – the one with the 3 straight lines). Then click on “History”. Websites visited on this computer will be displayed in reverse chronological order.
Checking browser history in Internet Explorer:
Open an Internet Explorer browser window and click on the Favorites button (the gold star in the top right corner). Next, click on the History tab and select a time period. Checking the last week should give you a good idea of what you’re dealing with, but you can look back farther if you’d like.
Checking browser history in Safari:
Checking browser history in Safari is probably the easiest of all. Open a Safari browsing window and from the main menu in the upper left, click on History. The history will be displayed in the open window, with the most recent sites listed at the top.
Checking browser history in Firefox:
Checking the browser history is also a snap in Firefox. Open a Firefox window and as with Safari, click on the History tab. The history will be displayed in the open window, with the most recent sites listed at the top.
Now that you’ve checked, what is the next step? For any unfamiliar sites, you can visit the site and see for yourself, or Google “What is ABC.com?” Don’t be dismayed if there are lots of sites you haven’t heard of, or some that look like they are not age-appropriate for your child. Use what you’ve learned to have a real conversation with your child about why he is using certain sites, and what he is using them for. Some sites run the gamut of having some excellent content and some of a seedier variety – there could be a good reason your child goes there. Some sites that have mostly what seems like adult content may actually be harmless.
By arming yourself with some basic information, having a meaningful conversation with your child will be a great starting point to show him that you care, and remind him of the risks of making bad decisions online.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.