Parent looking over child's internet usage
The Tech Savvy Parent Title Typography
Brian Housman author
Proactive Family Plan for Tech Safety Title Typography
The average teenager now spends eleven hours a day plugged in to media. They spend two hours a day EVERY DAY OF THEIR LIFE just on social media. More than three out of four high schoolers, and over half of middle schoolers, now own their own cell phone. All of that media time means your child is not only staring at screens for an insane amount of time, but they are also sharing more information than ever before.

Just as you have taken steps to protect your home and car by locking the doors, you must do the same thing for your family when it comes to all of their screen time. You would never want your teenager to sit on a bench in the mall next to a stranger and share intimate information about themselves. Nor would you ever intentionally set up your child for a moral failure or help them scar their reputation. There are two proactive fronts for you to guard in providing technology safety before any damage occurs.

Step One: Guard Their Heart
More than eighty percent of high school guys and thirty percent of girls admit to struggling with digital pornography. The first place your child is likely to access it is through a Google search. They weren’t looking for porn; they were looking for answers. The second most common first encounter with digital porn is on YouTube. YouTube takes down more than 10,000 inappropriate videos each day, but there are more than 300 hours of new videos uploaded each minute. It is impossible for them to catch everything that should not be there. This is why it is important that you have good filtering software for the devices they use.

Filtering software allows you to not only set restrictions on porn, but content such as violence, racism, gambling, drinking, and social media. A great place to start for your home computers and browsing pads is Norton Family or Content Barrier by Intego. Each of these also allow you to block content based on keywords. For accountability software, the top two choices are Covenant Eyes and X3 Watch. These allow you to create a “partner” that is notified of any objectionable material that is accessed.

“Just as you have taken steps to protect your home and car by locking the doors, you must do the same thing for your family when it comes to all of their screen time.”
Step Two: Guard Their Reputation
More than half of all twelve-year-olds in the US have a social media account. By the age of thirteen, it jumps to over seventy-six percent. At that young of an age, teens do not have the life experience to understand how the information they share can and will be used against them or the potential long-term consequences.

The majority of college admission counselors say that they now check Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter accounts of applicants. Once your child is old enough to consider what college to attend, they have a digital reputation of several years. Besides communicating your expectations of them when it comes to social media, there is software you can also use to help protect them. If your child is just starting out on social media, I would recommend a program such as Bark or Qustodio. They track all the social media in your child’s life telling you who has friended or followed them, messaged them, and commented on their posts. This is great accountability and protection for young users who are getting their feet wet on social media.

Your child is going to be on social media. It is how they connect to the world and peers, whether it is to engage for work, social, school, or academic reasons. At whatever age you agree to allow them to dive into social media, you should always be connected to them on the same platform. This will help create accountability and show them that you desire to be a part of all aspects of their life.

A hands-on approach to helping your child guard their information is to periodically review what they are sharing online. If you see something inappropriate, or that even makes you uncomfortable, it’s time for a conversation. Ask your teen to remove the post or comment, but do so in a calm, reasoned voice that is free of guilt or shame. Use this as an opportunity to revisit your agreed upon boundaries. This twofold process of protecting your family’s heart, reputation, and information will give you peace of mind, but should never replace honest dialogue with your teen or tween about God’s boundaries for their life.

Brian Housman author

rian Housman has had the privilege of speaking at more than two hundred parenting conferences from coast to coast and internationally. He is the author of Tech Savvy Parenting and Engaging Your Teen’s World. Brian and his wife Mona have been married for twenty-one years and have two teenagers, Bailey and Ashlan. Get daily parenting tips from him on Twitter at @bwhousman.