School’s Out: Summer Safety Tips for Teens
Summer’s here, and that means a long break from school, plenty of hot sun… and far more time every day to get online. More teens than ever are choosing to socialize in the digital world in the real world. Teens are constantly connected with a vast network of friends, and without the distraction of classes, homework, and other extra circulars, you can bet the texts are flying.
At the same time, outdoor activities aren’t as popular as they once were. Kids roaming the streets on their bikes used to be a summer staple, but now the average teen spends up to 7 ½ hours every day staring at a screen. That doesn’t leave much time for going to the mall or riding bikes.
If This Is Your Teen’s First Summer With A Smartphone…
…then it’s important to put a stricter limit on how long they can use the device each day. Summer is by far the easiest time for a teen to fall prey to smartphone addiction—with little else to do, they’ll increasingly turn to that little glowing box to pass the time.
Try to push them to interact with others in the real world, whether it’s meeting up with friends in person, taking up a hobby, going to camp, or even getting a summer job. Set limits on how much access to media they have to ensure they maintain a strong online / offline life balance.
Another great tip is to help your teen set a reward for the summer, such as a family vacation at the end of the break, if they meet a specific list of achievements. This does the extra mile to help teach independence and time management, especially if there are numerous smaller rewards they can enjoy along the way.
Meanwhile, For All Teens, You Should…
- Start focusing on their relationships: With so much more free time, teens may be more willing to go out and meet new people—which also makes it easier to take advantage of them. Talk to your teen and explain that you’d like to meet anyone new before they hang out with them alone—and this may be a good time to smile wryly at them and admit that you probably are being overprotective, but just want to check thing and make sure they’re safe.
- Pay attention to status updates: Summer is a great opportunity for teens to start hooking up—or breaking up. Stay on the lookout for status updates on their social media accounts—and in real-life, too, if they start behaving oddly.
- Watch For Sexting: Summer’s lowered barriers mean that teens are more likely to take risks—and studies have demonstrated that more than half of teens are sexting. There is a better-than-even chance that your teen is going to get up to something they shouldn’t this season, and if you haven’t already talked to them about sexting, now is a good time to start. If you’re not sure how to start that talk, check out our guide on the subject.
- Discuss Social Permanency: Social permanency—the idea that whatever is put online tends to stay there—is a real issue these days. Teens need to understand that the fun things they post now (such as pictures from a summer party) could come back to hurt them later on as other people see those images and judge them by what they’re looking at. With more than half of all teens documenting their lives on sites like Instagram, they should learn to stop and think before they share.
Summer is often a wild time for teens—especially older teens—but it doesn’t have to be dangerous. With a few good-sense precautions, you can ensure that your child is able to have plenty of fun online without getting into trouble.