Planning a Safe Summer for Your Teen

Give your teen space to have fun while setting appropriate boundaries.

During the long school year, teens work hard and focus on education. Over the summer, it’s natural to want to cut loose and have fun. As a parent, you have to find ways to set boundaries without stifling your teen’s hard earned fun.

Research activities
If your teen is attending a camp or going on a trip, do your research. Find out who will be supervising and what the guidelines are. Look into chaperones for trips. Know who will be driving and where your teen will be staying.

Require safety equipment for sports and activities
As your teen participates in sports and other outdoors activities, require the right safety equipment. Activities such as boating can be especially dangerous without the right precautions. Give your teen the chance to have fun as long as he’s adhering to safety rules and using the right equipment, such as helmets while biking or skateboarding.

Talk about drugs and alcohol
Continue an open dialogue about drugs and alcohol over the summer. Never allow your teen or other teens to drink alcohol in your home.

Ask your teen for suggestions
Give your teen the chance to influence her summer activities. Instead of telling her what she’ll be doing, let her come to you with suggestions and options. Discuss those options as a family to find out what works best for your teen and what aligns to the rules you’ve established. Focus on compromise and give her opportunities to earn trust and privileges.

Talk about online safety
Your teen will spend time texting and hanging out online this summer, no matter how great the weather is. It’s always the right time to talk about online bullying, online safety and privacy. It’s also a good time to talk about going to a responsible adult if illegal or irresponsible behavior is witnessed online.                  

The LiveFree! Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition is a coalition of members of the community who strive to address alcohol and drug use in Pinellas County. Visit us online today to see how you can get involved.

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Top Tips for Monitoring Your Child’s Social Media Usage

The landscape of social interaction between teens has changed tremendously with the growing use of social media sites like Facebook and MySpace, as well as common use of text messaging to communicate. Most tweens and teens are glued to cell phones and computers for decent chunks of the day. How do you monitor your child’s social media usage and promote online safety?

 Learn the Ropes
If you’re not already familiar with social media and cell phone technology, it’s time to play catch-up. Get a Facebook account and familiarize yourself with the security settings and actually use the account to connect with friends and family. The more you use these platforms, the more you’ll understand how your child might use them or currently uses them. You don’t need to catch up on all the latest text speak, but do familiarize yourself with how to use your phone for text messaging. Read up on the latest social networking safety guidelines.

Connect With Your Kid
Friend your teen on Facebook. While it’s certainly possible for him to filter you out, you’re at the very least establishing yourself as an adult you knows how to use Facebook and genuinely wants to participate. Text your child when appropriate. While you don’t need to entirely infiltrate your child’s online social circles, it’s important to be as aware and inquisitive as you can. Unless you have evidence that there’s a safety issue at hand, avoid trying to break into your child’s accounts or emails. This kind of breech in trust could cause your child to hide things from you in the future.

 Discuss Safety
Try not to get too worked up if you notice minor offenses like an off-color joke or a swear word in your teen’s chat box on the computer screen. Instead, focus on major issues like online predators, information about illegal drugs, promotion of underage drinking and sexting. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests walking your child through making sure privacy settings are set to the highest limits on social media sites. The FTC advises against using screen names that share too much, including age and home town.

 If There’s a Problem
Most kids will spend a lot of time online via the phone and computer. This is normal, but if it begins to get out of hand, you may need to set limits. Each day, talk to your child about how much time she’s spent on social media sites. If setting limitations isn’t working, you may need to install software that disables the Internet or certain sites during homework hours. Consider keeping your child’s phone in lockdown until homework is finished or for set times.

The LiveFree! Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition is a coalition of members of the community who strive to address alcohol and drug use in Pinellas County. Visit us online today to see how you can get involved in this cause that is so important to our community.

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