Staying safe and connected in Cyberspace |

Staying safe and connected in Cyberspace

Youth today are living in a world of instant connectedness. Ideas, resources, and relationships are at their fingertips, with cell phones, Internet, and multimedia technologies embedded in our culture. This ability to instantly connect to people known and unknown is here to stay, and carries with it a myriad of risks, especially for the curious and adventurous adolescent.

Just ask a teenager if they are willing (and able) to give up their cell phone or Internet access for a day. Devastating! It’s their world, and how they handle this cyber world can be healthy, unhealthy, or a little of both.

The current generation of parents and grandparents find it almost impossible to have a face to face conversation with their kids or grandkids without constant cell phone interruptions. It’s the norm to carry on a second or third conversation via text while trying to talk with someone. It seems to be important how many things can you do at once, rather than devoting your attention to perhaps just one. Relationships become strained, communication is scattered. If we’re not careful, we find ourselves ungrounded and not committed to much of anything or anyone … yet superficially connected to so many.

One of the ways we work with kids and parents at YouthZone is to help develop cohesiveness in the family. Little by little communication breaks down, yet in the business of the day it may be hardly noticed. Dinnertime at the table without electronics is a good thing. A hike without cell service is fantastic. Fishing followed by a campfire, perfect. Car time without texting can work magic.

Having trouble prying your child away from the Internet? What about video games? Family game nights, a trip to the library, a craft project, bike ride, cooking dinner together, walking the dog, a good movie … make a list and keep adding to it! And don’t forget to set aside time each day to just talk with your kids about your day, and theirs.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to discuss cyber safety issues with kids of any and all ages. Make sure they understand the legal penalties for harassment, sexting, and online bullying. Have an agreement that they will let you, or another adult, know if they are aware of inappropriateness or anything that doesn’t seem right. There are a number of resources online for parents concerned about Internet safety, or for those who could use some help navigating through the techno maze.

If a bit of outside encouragement would be helpful, consider scheduling a Parent Consult at YouthZone. We will talk about options, resources, and tools for being the best parent you can be. We also have counselors, youth groups, and our Pals mentoring program to bring around that face to face support and guidance.

If you’d like to know more about YouthZone services and programs, visit our website at or give us a call at 945-9300 or 625-3141. Then put the phone down, and play a game with your son or daughter. Together you’re a family, and talking together you’re a better family.

— Nancy MacGregor is a youth advocate for YouthZone.

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