How to Monitor Kids Online Habits: Tips for Parents

Smartphones, computers, tablets or laptops: However your kids access the Internet, keep them safe. Dr. Laura Berman details how to monitor for explicit activity and keeping your kids away from harm.

Monitoring Your Kids Cell Phones

Cell phones have increasing capabilities every year. Many now allow easy Internet access and have the capacity to send video or picture messages. These open up an ever-widening opportunity for your child to access or even create explicit, unmonitored content in a realm that often feels less censored and more private than other technology tools.

Fortunately, checking in on your child’s cell phone and texting habits is as easy as checking your phone bill. Your bill will tell you exactly which numbers your child is texting, and how often. Talk to your child if you notice excessive texts to an unfamiliar number. Checking your child’s phone periodically is also an option, although this may not be as informative since texts and images can be deleted as soon as they are sent or received.

If you have concerns about texting habits, based on what you notice on your bill or simply on the amount of time your child spends texting, try saying something such as: “I was looking over our phone bill the other day, and noticed quite a lot of texts going from your phone to a number I didn’t recognize. Can you tell me who this person is, and why you’re texting so often?”

Signs Your Child May Be Targeted by an Online Predator

Online sexual predators come in many different shapes and sizes. Some pose as younger kids and create fake online identities in order to lure adolescents into trusting them. They might pretend to be from your child’s school, or to have the same acquaintances. Predators adopt the language and demeanour of a sympathetic listener in order to gain trust. Your child might be at risk if he is:

• Spending increasing amounts of time online
• Spending much less time online, or acting nervous about the Internet
• Minimizing emails or chat sessions when you walk into the room
• Receiving frequent emails from someone you don’t know
• Receiving phone calls or mail from someone you don’t know
• Receiving unusual or excessive spam in your inbox or your child’s inbox
• Acting secretive about online activity
• Becoming unusually withdrawn from family and friends
• Acting sad or anxious, particularly after being online
• Spending less time with friends

The Risk That Comes with “Sexting”

Explicit activity via computer and cell phone has become so common that there is even a new word for it in our social lexicon. “Sexting” means to send or receive sexually explicit messages, pictures, or videos. A recent survey hosted by Teenage Research Unlimited found that 20% of teenagers in the United States have sexted using nude or semi-nude pictures.

Particularly when linked to the Internet, the possible repercussions of these photos and messages are tremendous. The original poster or sender loses control of the content once it appears online, so not only is this photo or video likely to be passed around the school, it is also likely to be passed around the web—possibly for many years to come. From college admission boards to future employers, anyone can potentially have immediate access to these ill-advised photo sessions.

Surprisingly, most teenagers are well aware of these consequences. 73% of teenagers in the Teenage Research Unlimited survey said they knew that posting or sending explicit photos could have “serious negative consequences.” Still, many teens choose to take part in this trend. The truth is that until teens experience the negative results of sexting for themselves, the lesson might not hit home. An adolescent’s intrinsic feelings of invincibility make learning from other people’s bad decisions difficult. Add to that a teen’s still-developing mind and judgment system, and it is no wonder that some teenagers don’t see the harm in sexting.

While there is currently no research that shows that teens who engage in sexting are more likely to engage in sexual activity in real life, interacting with these messages repeatedly may desensitize teens and lead them to devalue their sexuality. The earlier a teen starts to explore sexuality with his peers, the harder it will be for him to make smart sexual decisions.

Sexplanation – What Do Popular Internet Acronyms Mean?

For adolescents, a big part of online culture is using the current code language. Some of these terms are innocent, and some are surprisingly explicit. Like all slang, these terms evolve frequently, so it’s a good idea to stay educated on what the current codes mean.

Learn Acronym Meanings

  • GF – Girlfriend
  • BF – Boyfriend
  • BFF – Best friend forever
  • BRB – Be right back
  • AFK  – Away from keyboard
  • BAK – Back at keyboard
  • CD9 – Code 9—parents are around
  • PIR – Parent in room
  • PRW – Parents are watching (also PAW)
  • POS – Parent over shoulder
  • DOS – Dad over shoulder
  • MOS – Mom over shoulder
  • ILY – I love you
  • 143 – I love you
  • 182 – I hate you
  • ASL – Age/sex/location
  • LMIRL – Let’s meet in real life
  • RU/18 – Are you over 18?
  • KPC – Keeping parents clueless
  • KFY – Kiss for you (also K4Y)
  • BANANA – Penis
  • RUH – Are you horny?
  • DUM – Do you masturbate?
  • 8 – Oral sex
  • MEZRU – I am easy, are you?
  • IWSN – I want sex now
  • TDTM – Talk dirty to me
  • GNOC – Get naked on camera
  • GYPO – Get your pants off
  • NIFOC – Nude in front of the computer
  • FB – F*** buddy

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CF_Berman_Talking_Kids_cover_100.jpgExcerpted from Talking to YOUR Kids about SEX , by Dr. Laura Berman. Copyright 2009 by Dr. Laura Berman. Excerpted with permission from DK. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced without permission in writing from the publisher.

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