This post was written by Eileen Hsu, 17 (pictured seated on the left, above), who operates her own blog called Cool Asian Kids. Hsu was one of the panelists in the session, “Help! My Kid is on Snapchat”: Online Issues Facing Parents and Families, which took place from 1-1:50 p.m. Saturday, June 15 during V3con. The panel also featured Thien-Kim Lam, Grace Hwang Lynch and Jason Sperber. Susan Hirasuna served as moderator.
By Eileen Hsu
Kids and teens these days are growing up in the age of technology, and with so many new social media apps and websites popping up each year, parents are struggling to keep up with their kids as the technological climate continues to grow and evolve. The question that families today are facing: To what extent should parents monitor what their kids do online, if any at all? As the youngest speaker on the “Help! My Kid is on Snapchat” panel Saturday at V3con, I say none. No monitoring. None.
But it’s not as simple as that — social media applications are making it easier for kids to act irresponsibly online, be it through sending inappropriate photos on Snapchat or posting offensive comments on Facebook. As much as I would love to have full privacy when it comes to what I do online, it is imperative that parents do get involved in their children’s technology usage when their kids are still young.
Thien-Kim Lam, founder of www.imnotthenanny.com and mother of a mixed racial family, uses parental controls to set time frames during which her children can and cannot access the computer and other devices.
Grace Hwang Lynch, a mother of slightly older children and blogger at hapamama.com, discusses her experience with monitoring her oldest child’s computer use. Lynch researches different social media apps before she decides whether or not to allow her kids to use them. When her daughter asks her if she can use a certain social media application — yes, her kids are still at the age when they ask her for permission to do things — she tests out the app and asks other parents for their opinions on it.
My mom has monitored my Internet usage since I was young, when she started discovering my habits of using the Internet rather irresponsibly (I would create online personas that were nothing at all like myself and stay online chatting until the early morning). She still uses parental controls to regulate the amount of time I am allowed to use the computer each day, as well as which sites I am allowed to access. Have I found ways around some of the restrictions? Yes. Has my mother found more ways to restrict my computer usage? Yes.
Jason Sperber, who writes a parenting blog at daddyinastrangeland.com based on his experience raising his two young daughters, has a more open approach. Instead of heavily monitoring his daughters’ use of the computer, he speaks openly with them about how to properly make good use of technology — a method that works especially well when children are still young, obedient, and open to what their parents have to say. Having open conversations with children about technology when they are still getting familiar with it allows parents to gauge how responsibly their kids will use technology as they grow older.
So what about cyberbullying? Panel moderator Susan Hirasuna, Fox 11 broadcast journalist and mother of two older teenagers, has had her share of dealing with cyberbullying-related drama. Her older son’s Facebook account was hacked and vandalized when he was in high school.
In my own experience, the topic of cyberbullying is not something teenagers will willingly approach their parents about, and teens tend to handle it on their own. Having been on the online scene since I was 12, I have learned to simply ignore haters and cyberbullies, but it is very easy for many teenagers to be affected by negative comments about themselves. Sperber asserts that it’s important to make kids aware of the dangers of cyberbullying while they are young.
Social media applications and the Internet in general can be dangerous and harmful when used irresponsibly — but they can also be powerful tools that allow kids to express themselves in a constructive manner. Parents should point their kids on the path towards being tech savvy and responsible. But how do they determine how much they should actually monitor their kids’ online behaviors? Ultimately, that depends on the individual child and his or her tendencies, and parents should plan to regulate their children’s Internet usage accordingly.