What is your teen learning online?

Parents generally consider it their job to guide their children as they learn, answer their questions, and teach them about growing up. Teens and their parents, traditionally, have discussed such important topics as dating, puberty, sex, and health concerns. However, more and more frequently, modern teenagers are turning to the internet to answer their questions. By doing so, they gain needed information. But how much does this information cost? Is your teenager learning the correct information about drugs, sex, and other sensitive subject matter, or is he getting the majority of his information from friends, chat rooms, or discussion forums?

The internet is an extremely useful source of information. However, it is also an excellent source for poor quality, misleading, or downright false information. If your child has questions about his or her sexuality, for example, a simple Google search may turn up more information than you’d ever want them having access to. Before you turn your teenager or child loose on the internet, be sure they have some simple rules in place to help them find needed information, while limiting their exposure to dangerous or harmful websites.

Parental filtering software is available to cut down on exposure to porn or other sites with adult content, such as gambling or drug related sites. Parental filters work well to screen out a large number of websites with adult content, language, or pictures. You can generally set the parameters of this software to allow educational content to get through, while weeding out the harmful material you’d like to avoid giving your teenager access to.

Taking the time to teach your teenager to be an educated information consumer is extremely important. Explain to her that there are a variety of sources for any type of information on the internet, and while some are excellent, others may be poor quality or misleading. By teaching your teenager research skills, you are equipping them for a lifetime of separating out needed information from fluff, and providing them with a valuable life skill.

Maintaining a personal relationship with your teenager is also extremely important. If you have a good relationship, you can also provide your teen with a list of government, medical, or educational websites that are good sources of information about the topic they’re interested in. The catch is, you have to be able to talk to them to know what they’re looking for. If they won’t talk to you, be sure that they are aware of other adults, such as doctors, teachers, or school counselors that can provide them with high quality internet resources.

If you’re concerned about what your teenager may be learning online, take the time now to begin educating them about sensitive subject matter. Install parental controls on your computer, and learn how to use them properly. Take time to show your teenager how to find valuable information, as well as the difference between high quality, informational sources and low quality, social sources. Continually work to build your relationship with your teenager, so that they will talk to you if they have a problem that they can’t solve themselves. And most importantly, if they choose not to talk to you, be sure that they have another adult that they can trust and encourage them to build a relationship.

Have a great day!