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Expert warns against paranoia over teens online

Expert warns against paranoia over teens online

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SALT LAKE CITY -- You may worry about what your teens are running into online, but some experts say our paranoia may be overblown.

It can be hard for parents to know just what is true when it comes to teens and the Internet.

Tips for Parents
  • Be reasonable and try to set reasonable expectations.
  • Talk with your kids about how they use the services.
  • Support critical thinking and civil behavior.
  • Consider requiring Internet use in a high-traffic place in your home - not in kids' rooms
  • Try to get your kids to share their profiles and blogs with you.
Source: Connect Safely.

One survey may say up to 30 percent of teens have sent sexually explicit messages on their cell phones. But another says it's only 4 percent. We worry about cyber bullies, about sexting, and about predators. But maybe we should relax a bit.

Some experts say in reality, most teens are not getting into trouble, are not seduced by predators, and are not cyber-bullied.

"It's very important that parents and educators get past the fear, and get on with understanding and navigating a new media environment that our children really thrive in," said Anne Collier with She said don't rush to keep teens from social media or digital media.


"Fear shuts down communication and makes us want to ban things. We're banning something that we don't understand but that our children love," she said.

Collier suggested the best way to understand something is to experiment with it. Join Facebook and friend your children. Play around with new media. She says 80 percent of parents of teens have a social media account. Most of them are friends with their teens, and more than a third got to that point because the teens asked their parents to join Facebook.

Collier said teens see no separation between their online life and their "real" life. They are hanging out online with people they hang out with in real life. Research from the MacArthur Foundation found most young people spend time online connecting with people they know, not total strangers, and they stay with topics they know -- sports, religion, school. Many even join an online community in support of a cause, or donate to a charity online.


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Mary Richards


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