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Teen Activity on the Internet

Nearly 20 million kids between the ages of 12 and 17 are using the Internet on a daily basis. That’s roughly 85%-90% of that age group nationwide. Internet use among teenagers is a very large market, and everybody knows it. Because of the size of this demographic, we need to be extra vigilant about what kids are doing on the Internet.

This is not to say that there are 20 million kids on all at the same time. That would be absurd. There are, however, a little more than half that amount on at any given moment. That’s substantial. That is a staggering statistic, especially when you consider the fact that the 20 million figure represents a nearly 300% increase in the last ten years as opposed to a 10% increase in adult Internet use over the same time period.

With all of these teenagers using the Internet so much so often, we need to ask ourselves what they are actually doing. Millions of kids aren’t just checking email. Research and surveys have shown that kids log on to play games, get news content, purchase goods and services, and obtain information related to health and wellness. This isn’t a comprehensive list of teen activity on the web, of course, but it does represent what a large portion of them are doing.

In fact, many teenagers use the Internet to do research for homework, scores of younger teen girls seem interested in the latest fashion trends and celebrity news, and a good portion of them download music (legally and otherwise).

With the increasing popularity of personal websites and small organization websites, kids are getting their information on local events and sports scores from the Internet. In the last few years it seems that every local club, sports team and social club has their own website, making it easier for anyone to keep up with the group’s activities. Meetings, games, and activities no longer have to be published and mailed, but can just be posted for all to see.

The anonymous nature of the Internet has led scores of young girls to use it to research topics related to health. Dieting, exercise, depression, and other personal subject matters are popular searches for teen girls. This may have something to do with the fact that many teens feel uncomfortable talking about these things with their parents or another adult. In this sense, some teens are using the Internet as a stand in for what used to be the job of a parent, guardian, or teacher.

Other popular uses of the Internet include instant messaging, social bookmarking sites like MySpace and Twitter, and online bulletin boards or forums. Many teens have admitted to maintaining several screen names and email addresses, which they use depending on who they are dealing with. The Internet allows someone to have multiple personalities and identities, and that is very alluring to a teen.

That’s not always a bad thing, though. Teens are always trying to figure out the road to adulthood, and the Internet seems to allow them the freedom to experiment with different forays into the adult world with little to no lasting repercussions. The danger comes when a teen can’t separate reality from the online world. As a parent or teacher, your job is to make clear the difference between the real world and the fantasy world that many teens create for themselves on the Internet.

Have a great day!


Signs Your Child May Be at Risk

It can be difficult for parents to keep track of the newest social networking sites, online chat rooms, blogs, and forums. Monitoring your teenager’s online activities can seem close to impossible some days, with new websites being added to their list of favorites regularly. However, it’s crucial that you know the danger signs to watch for. These signs can be clear tip-offs that your teenager is engaged in risky behaviors on the internet.

* Spending Large Amounts of Time Online: Instant Messaging programs can quickly suck up large blocks of time. Your child is engaged in real time chats, and they may be sucked in. Predators are experts at maintaining this type of conversation for long periods of time. If you notice lengthy chat or IM sessions, be sure to ask your teen who they were chatting with.

* Online Activity at Night: Unless your teen is chatting with someone in Australia, night time chats may mean that they’re trying to hide their activities from you. Night time is quieter and more private, allowing them to keep their conversations a secret from you. Check IM logs regularly – if you notice an excessive amount of night time chatting, it’s time to ask some questions.

*Phone Calls from Strangers: If your teenager is receiving phone calls from people you don’t know, it means that they’ve been giving their phone number out. Take action to stop this behavior immediately!

*Receives Packages from People You Don’t Know: This is even more dangerous – if your teen is receiving mail from strangers, this means that someone has your home address. Discuss this with them immediately, find out if the person is an adult, and consider contacting the authorities.

* Shuts off the Monitor or Changes Screens: If your teenager regularly shuts off the monitor, switches tabs, or minimizes their browser when you enter the room, there’s something they don’t want you to see. You need to find out what they’re up to – before it’s too late!

If you notice any of these behaviors in your teenager, you need to start a conversation about sex offenders and predators as soon as possible. You need to be as honest with them as possible about the dangers involved, and the techniques that these adults use to manipulate teenagers.

You’ll also want to to put some type of monitoring software into place on your computer as soon as possible. Keyloggers, website trackers, and more are available. You’ll need this information to make your case with your teenager, to monitor their future behavior, and to keep records that you can use to report the predator to the authorities.

If you’ve noticed these behaviors, take action today! It’s essential to your teen’s safety.

Have a great day!