Technology and Teens

Teenager using a mobile phone

Parents have always found it difficult to let their children go and the transition to independence (leaving home for university, for example) can be a tense time.

Traditionally, parents relied on - at best - sporadic phone calls from their absent children, or perhaps the odd card of letter. Yet today there is a whole panoply of new technology that helps families keep in touch - mobiles, emails, Facebook, MySpace and a host of social networking sites.

Social networking sites are undoubtedly an excellent way of keeping in touch, but they are also a very effective means of spying on teenagers and young children. Unsurprisingly, many kids come to dread getting a friend request from their mum or dad.

Socialising in cyber-space can be completely inhibited by the intervention of a doting parent. Whether they're embarrassingly solicitous (concerned about late nights, alcohol consumption, extravagant expenditure, non-revision), or making excruciating attempts to be hip and cool, snooping parents are never going to be popular.

On the other hand, it's easy to feel left out of your children's socially networked lives. So try and follow these basic guidelines:

Tips for dealing with teenagers and technology

In cyberspace, as in life, the teenage years are about gradually letting go, and ensuring that your children have space and independence. It's fine to insist that your pre-teens and younger teens accept your friend requests, and are tolerant of your presence on Facebook - this is about ensuring that they are safe and not falling under bad influences (the equivalent of insisting that a teenager is home by a certain time).

As children get older, however, this should no longer be a given. Having a parent befriending you on Facebook is rather like a parent eavesdropping on all your private conversations, so it's scarcely surprising that some teenagers find it intolerable.

If you're monitoring your child's Facebook page, whatever their age, you should tell him/her.

If you are monitoring the page, and you have comments to make about lifestyle choices, then send them by private message - don't post them up for everyone to see.

Try and let go. Discuss the issue with your teenagers. If they agree that Facebook is an excellent way of communicating and they're happy for you to do so - that's fine, but don't be upset or disappointed if they don't want to have that kind of relationship with you. Would you want your own parents to snoop on you online?

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