Finding good information while staying safe on line
by Bre Woligroski
Dear Ate Anna,
My 15-year-old daughter spends all of her time on her phone. I worry about who she is talking to and what information she is accessing. I have tried to talk to her about it but we just get into fights. What can I do?
Dear Worried Mother,
Thank you for your e-mail! We get a lot of questions from parents who are concerned about their teenagers.
Technology can bring a lot of positive things into our lives. For parents of teenagers, having a phone means we can better communicate with them throughout the day. It also means they can get a hold of us quickly if needed.
Technology can also bring challenges. Sometimes we, not only teenagers, can have a hard time finding a balance between being on line and being present with the people around us. There can be concerns about privacy and safety when your teenager connects with others they don’t know on sites such as Facebook or Snapchat. It also means that they might have access to health or other information that is untrue or misleading.
Teenagers can be taught Internet skills so they have a safe on line experience. Keep trying to reach out to your daughter. Be as non-judgemental and open as possible, making it clear that you are only interested in her and her safety. If you can, make an agreement about phone usage at home. For example, the family may choose to have a “no phones” policy while sharing meals together, or a 9:00 p.m. cut-off time.
Try to have an open conversation with your daughter about who she is connecting with on line. Make sure she understands the importance of only connecting with people she knows in person. Make sure she understands it is unsafe to meet somebody she has only met on line. Help her set up her privacy settings on her phone to make sure her private information is secure. For more help, access mediasmarts.ca.
The Internet is full of good information and bad information. You can help her build skills in knowing how to tell the difference. For example, many young people consult the Internet for sexual health information. The danger is that there are many sites that have out-dated or untrue sexual health information.
Sometimes it is difficult to tell if a web site can be trusted. Usually, the only way to find out is to check its credentials and who the site is connected to. A good sign that a web site is reliable is if it is connected to your local health authority. Web sites of community health centres like SERC or Nine Circles Community Health have reliable information about sexual health.
If a web site judges sexual behaviour, tells a person what to do with their bodies, or talks about sex in a way that is shameful or negative, those are usually signs that the site cannot be trusted.
If you have any questions about whether a website or source of information is reliable, please feel free to ask us!
Ate Anna welcomes your questions and comments. Please write to: Ate Anna, Suite 200- 226 Osborne St. N., Winnipeg, MB R3C 1V4 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit us at www.serc.mb.ca. You will find reliable information and links for many resources on the subject of sexuality.