As the holidays wind down, odds are good your teenager may be spending more time online.
Of the five most sought-after tech gifts for teenagers this holiday season, according to consumerreports.org, three have Internet capabilities. While it's impractical in today's fast-paced world to shield your teenagers from technology, it is a good idea to set some parameters around Internet use.
Consumer Reports recommends establishing guidelines for how and when computers, tablets and smart phones may be used. Talk to your teenagers about what they are doing online, and set boundaries about what is acceptable. The Weller Health Education Center, in Easton, Pa., offers tips for staying safe online. They include encouraging teenagers to refrain from giving out their real names or meeting anyone they talk to online in person.
As a parent, you want your kids to stay safe online. Fortunately, there is a website where teenagers can talk to their peers, get answers to nagging questions and always remain completely anonymous. www.TeenCentral.Net is designed as a safe online space, where teens can read about everything from bullying to drug and alcohol use to weight issues to dating violence. There are special sections that focus entirely on foster care, military families and religion.
All questions posted to the site receive an answer within 24 hours, and even though the teenagers remain anonymous, they do have the opportunity to interact with other teenagers under the guise of their user names. So if you know a teen, encourage him or her to log on. It is a safe way to make connections and find information online. There's even a sister site for parents -- www.ParentCentral.Net -- where you can feel like you belong too.
Of course, remember that face-to-face interaction is just as important among family and friends, so carve out some screen-free times with your kids too.