This article is the third in a series on how parents can address the issue of sexting with their teenage children. The first part of this series emphasized the importance of educating yourself as a parent and talking to your kids about sexting as well as internet and social media issues. Part 2 reviewed some of the ground rules to put in place.
Warning Signs. Once you have put some ground rules in place, there are a few warning signs that your kid may be wandering into electronic media places you don’t want them to go.
Using a computer parents don’t check. This may be every computer in the house (if you haven’t already been monitoring their internet use). Checking the computer was easier back in the old days when there was only one computer in the house. These days? Every electronic device they use can take photos and upload them to the internet (including some refrigerators!). You may forget to check phones, music storage devices, video game consoles, even televisions that are interactive. Make a list of all the devices that can access the internet and keep tabs on them.
Close/minimize browser when parents are around. It is one thing for your kid to minimize the screen every now and then when you wander by. It is another thing for them to do it every time you get close. If you aren’t sure then make a point to saunter over at different times across a day or two. If your kid reduces the screen most of the time it is time to take a closer look at where they are actually going online.
Furtive, suspicious behavior/innocent, loving behavior. If your kid acts suspicious when they are on the internet, that’s a bad sign. If they suddenly act all innocent and loving when you ask about their internet activities, immediately shut down all access to the internet on every device! There’s no TELLING what they are up to. Teens are NEVER innocent and loving; ever. I’m just saying.
Privacy settings exclude you. If your kid has locked you out of their accounts it could be to hide what they are doing. If they lock you out after you had the talk with them and went over the rules (including that you have an all access pass) it is almost certain they are doing something they think you won’t approve.
Lie/omit details of online activity. Everyone forgets things now and then. Guilty people actually lie about what they are doing or happen to forget to mention something that could lead to trouble. When you ask your kid specific information about their online activities it should match up with the facts of what they are doing. If not, it is time to dig deeper.
Hide/delete instant messages/texts. How odd that texts to your kid’s girlfriend or boyfriend don’t go back further than today? All those years making them clean up after themselves is finally paying off. They are keeping their texting account so neat and tidy! Right. Something is up here.
Use private browsing modes. The browser program (e.g., Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.) used to access the internet has a setting that will erase all the information about your time spent surfing the internet when you close the program down. That means you can’t easily see what your kid was doing and where they were going online. Unfortunately, it is generally a good idea to set your internet browser to privacy mode. One solution is to occasionally interrupt your kid in the middle of their browsing and take a quick look at the history to see what they have been up to. (Screaming and arguing are minimized if you warn your kid ahead of time you are going to do this now and again.)
Clears browser history. If the internet history is cleared when your kid gets off the internet, it is time to take a closer look at what they are doing online. This may also be a time to unexpectedly interrupt your kid mid-internet use to see what they have been doing.
Apps that hide apps. Enterprising programmers around the world have been developing apps that are not easily detectable through your internet service provider. There are apps to text so that texts are not traceable. There are apps that automatically erase the messages sent. This has been a tremendous benefit for the advancement of freedom of speech and the fight oppression by totalitarian dictators the world over. Guess who is also in the totalitarian dictatorship category? That would be you. If your little freedom fighter has downloaded hidden apps on their electronic devices, they are definitely engaged in subversive activities. Time for the secret police to swoop in and shut down this little rebellion.
Ghost email and social networking profiles. Since anyone can create an email account or social networking profile, anyone can have more than one account. Since you are already a friend on their main account, visit the sites of your kid’s closest friends. See if there is something suspicious about any of their closest friends that might suggest it is your kid in disguise. Creating ghost accounts is a serious attempt to keep you out of their business that requires a lot of planning and effort to maintain these separate identities. If your kid has gone to this much trouble you are dealing with something that may require consultation with a mental health professional to review options.
(Note: Several of these suggestions were adapted from TRU Insights and McAfee, 2012.)
to be continued . . .
originally posted on www.brentwoodhomepage.com