BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - According to Pew research, roughly 95 percent of U.S. teens say they have access to a smartphone and 45 percent say they are “almost” constantly on the internet. The high numbers mean teens are potentially exposed to the good and bad of the online world.
“It’s almost like a pendulum. As far as a pendulum swings providing them with tremendous opportunity educationally and socially - it also brings a lot of challenges to them socially and emotionally,” said Liz Repking, Cyber Safety Consulting.
So, as a parent - what can you do? Cyber Safety Expert and founder of Cyber Safety Consulting, Liz Repking suggests talking with your child is a starting point and keep the conversations going.
“It’s not a one and done , ‘Okay, I talked to them about technology. They’re good.’ Their needs are ever evolving because how they use technology changes rapidly. It changes when technology changes and it changes with their development,” said Repking, “It’s much easier for kids to talk about someone else’s experiences than their own. A lot of times when they establish that an environment is safe and they’re talking about someone else, kids will eventually talk about their own experiences.”
But beyond talking, experts suggest monitoring where your child has access online.
“Many predators will ask, ‘Where are you? Go in your bedroom, close the door’, because they know if they get them away from the general traffic pattern of the house, they can connect with them," said Repking.
It’s also important to consider 3rd party parental softwares - like the Bark Parental Control system.
“Flag inappropriate content, sexual words, words predators use or drug use, sex language,” said Repking, “As soon as one of the keywords comes up, it’ll send an alert to the parent that something’s going on.”
Parental control settings also make sure what your child consumes online is age appropriate.
Website InternetMatters.org walks parents through how to set parental controls on everything from smartphones to entertainment and search engines. Simply click on what you’re looking for and a step by step guide will appear.
But experts say parents should still remain vigilant and diligent.
“A lot of parents install it and step away. The software can not replace parenting. The conversation. That oversight, but it can be a tool to help parents,” said Repking.