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Safety By Age

14 to about 17:

This can be one of the most exciting and challenging periods of a child's (and parent's) life. Your teen is beginning to mature physically, emotionally, and intellectually and is anxious to experience increasing independence from parents. To some extent that means loosening up on the reins, but by no means does it mean abandoning your parenting role. Teens are complicated in that they demand both independence and guidance at the same time.

Teens are also more likely to engage in risky behavior both online and offline. While the likelihood of a teen being abducted by someone he meets in a chat room is extremely low, there is always the possibility that he will meet someone online who makes him feel good and makes him want to strike up an in-person relationship. It is extremely important that teens understand that people they meet online are not necessarily who they seem to be.

Although it's sometimes difficult to indoctrinate teens with safety information, they can often understand the need to be on guard against those who might exploit them. Teens need to understand that to be in control of themselves means being vigilant, on the alert for people who might hurt them.

The greatest danger is that a teen will get together offline with someone she meets online. If she does meet someone she wants to get together with, it's important that she not go alone and that she meet that person in a public place.

It's important for parents to remember what it was like when they were teenagers. Set reasonable expectations and don't overreact if and when you find out that your teen has done something online that you don't approve of. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't take it seriously and exercise appropriate control and discipline, but pick your battles and try to look at the bigger picture.

If your teen confides in you about something scary or inappropriate that he encountered online, your first response shouldn't be to take away his Internet privileges. Try to be supportive and work with your teen to help prevent this from happening in the future. And remember that your teen will soon be an adult and needs to know not just how to behave but how to exercise judgment, reaching her own conclusions on how to explore the Net and life in general in a safe and productive manner.

 
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