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To Your Health: Parental oversight of kids needed in our cyber world

Parents should know whsites their kids are accessing online Dr. TanyR. Anderssays.  |  File photo

Parents should know what sites their kids are accessing online, Dr. Tanya R. Anderson says. | File photo

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Updated: April 20, 2014 6:08AM



Many young people are living their lives in public, posting photos and communicating details of their lives with people who frequently are acquaintances or even total strangers.

“LOL” may commonly stand for “laugh out loud,” but in today’s reality it could just as easily represent “living out loud.”

The need for validation is a normal part of adolescence, but it used to be more contained. With the ability to get instant validation from your true friends or people you don’t know, balance and perspective easily get lost in cyberspace. As these lines are blurred, a post made by a stranger can have the same impact as your best friend’s post.

It was hard for parents to raise adolescents when they knew who their friends were and who they were associating with. Now with this “LOL” generation, parents often feel helpless as they strive to keep their kids safe and help them be responsible with social media.

It is a parent’s responsibility to know who their kids’ friends are, who they have contact with, what sites they’re visiting, and who’s trying to contact them. You can’t abdicate this responsibility just because it’s happening online.

Bullying can also take place online. Keeping tabs of online activity is just another avenue to really understand what’s going on in your children’s lives.

Here’s how you can become actively involved in your children’s electronic media activity:

1. Know the sites your teens are using and where they’re going online. Learn how to track that history on your computer. If you discover inappropriate sites, don’t make it a “gotcha” moment. Have an open conversation.

2. Be aware of all the avenues in your house that require monitoring, including video games. Kids often play video games with people they don’t know and become friends with them through conversations. They can spend hours a week with this person. Sometimes just unobtrusively walking into the room and listening is all you need to do. If you have concerns, ask them later who they were talking to and what they know about that person.

3. Set ground rules about what they should and should not be posting on sites such as Facebook. Friend them on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram. Get their passwords for all social media so you can check what’s going on. If a password is changed or you are “unfriended,” there must be a consequence.

4. Follow up with consequences that are clear and reasonable. Punishments are most effective when they last one to three days. Otherwise kids forget the issue and become resentful and angry.

Because many parents are uncertain about how to raise their children in this digital age, I am conducting a free community seminar entitled, “Connect with your Child in the Digital Age.” It will be held at 6:30 p.m. March 27 on the Franciscan St. James Olympia Fields campus, 20201 S. Crawford Ave.

Admission is free, but seating is limited. Call (800) 785-2637 or visit FranciscanStJames.org to register.

Living out loud is not going away. Get cyber savvy. Explore the technology, tools, programs and apps that can facilitate your ability to monitor and track your kids’ activity.

Dr. Tanya R. Anderson is a Franciscan Physicians Network adult, child and adolescent psychiatrist who chooses to practice at Franciscan St. James Health, which is a member of the Southland Health Alliance.



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