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Monitor or talk? 5 ways parents can help keep their children safe online

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Children have been spending more time online. A May 2020 study found that U.S. teenagers spent around seven hours a day, on average, using screens. Even before the pandemic, U.S. teens were indicating in surveys that they were “almost constantly online.”

As with any venue, parents might be concerned about what dangers lurk on the internet – from cyberbullying to teen-to-teen sexting – and tempted to use various technological tools to monitor their children’s online activities.

As a researcher who specializes in how teens operate in online environments, I know that spying on your children’s keystrokes and web browsers isn’t the only or even the best parental practice to employ and may create problems of its own. Here are five tips on how parents can encourage their children to adopt safer online behavior beyond using spyware or computer surveillance.

Don’t just monitor your kids online, talk to them

Technical measures, such as those that allow parents to monitor every keystroke, can provide parents with an additional way to keep tabs on what their children are doing. However, parental controls should not replace an ongoing conversation with children about their digital media use and what it means to be safe online.

Many parents value open communication with their children about their internet use. This can be beneficial in keeping them safe. Research on related traditional risk behaviors, such as teenage substance use, has found that children who have open conversations with their parents are less likely to engage in these risky behaviors.........

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