Internet Safety for Teens- Should Parents have Total Control?

Internet Safety for Teens- Should Parents have Total Control?

As I raise a teen, pictured above (Kobi is a cutie.), I’ve wondered how much I should intervene with his on-line activity. We didn’t have cell phones growing up. I had a pager in high school. Yikes! I’m dating myself. 🙊 Let’s look at research recommendations on the topic: Internet Safety for Teens- Should Parents have Total Control.

Let’s first look at some facts on the access teens have to the internet. According to a research article by Wisniewski, Ghosh, Xu, Rosson, and Carroll (2017), in 2015:

  • 91% of U.S. teenagers (ages 13 to 17) access the internet via a cell phone
  • 47% of teens use video chat (like Skype or Facetime)
  • 33% use social messaging apps (like Kik, WhatsApp, Snapchat)
  • 11% use anonymous apps (like Yik Yak and Ask.FM)

What are some risks for on-line exposure:

  • Explicit content
  • Harassment
  • Sexual solicitations
  • Sexual exploits
  • Increased risk for teen suicide due to depression (comparing one’s life to the lives that people portray on social media)
  • Increased risk for depression (see above)
  • Even murder (yikes!)

What is self-regulation?

“Self-regulation is defined as the ability to modulate one’s own emotions and behaviors through monitoring, inhibiting, and evaluating oneself compared to given societal standards,” (Wisniewski, Ghosh, Xu, Rosson, & Carroll, 2017).

Can teens self-regulate themselves?

Self-regulation includes self-monitoring, impulse control, and risk-coping.

  • Self-monitoring
    • Most human behavior is purposeful and requires forethought.
    • Research has found that many teens don’t have the mature nature that forethought requires.
  • Impulse control
    • “The ability to inhibit one’s short-term desires in favor of the long-term consequences that may be caused by one’s actions.”
    • Research has found that impulse control in teens is “relatively immature” and may lead to “suboptimal decisions.”
  • Risk-coping
    • Involves both attempting to address the problem and managing the negative emotions that are caused by the situation
    • Teens either approach the situation or avoid/withdrawal
    • Research has found that teens build up a tolerance and resilience to what they see online, and therefore, teens can thrive in spite of experiencing online risks.

Parental control includes monitoring, restriction, and active mediation.

  • Monitoring
    • Checking text messages, call logs, or web browser history
    • In a Pew Research study, almost 50% of parents monitor their teen’s online activity.
  • Restriction
    • Parents place rules and limits on a teen’s online activities
    • Setting limits on screen-time or the types of content deemed acceptable for viewing
  • Active mediation
    • Interactions and discussions between parents and teens regarding online activities or experiences
    • Teens feel more empowered because they can engage in online activities and get help from their parents if they are confronted with a risky situation.

Raising healthy kids includes how children/teens interact socially. Of course, as parents, we want to keep our children safe and love them in our secure bubble free from all of the worries of the world. Um, that’s not realistic. Teens are young adults and will be adults at the blink of an eye. It is, of course, important to have restrictions. Otherwise, some teens may stay up all night long on their phones. Additionally, children and teens don’t have the mature capability always to know what is best for them. That’s why they have parents. Back to the initial question in this discussion:

Internet safety for teens- should parents have total control? More specifically, should teens self-regulate what they view on-line or is parental control necessary for on-line safety?

Should-Teens-Self-Regulate-what-they-view on-line or is parental-control-necessary for-on-line-safety

Yes, parents should provide some restrictions and regulate what children view online, but most importantly, teens need to learn how to cope with online challenges on their own. “As a society, we often spend so much time worrying about young people that we fail to account for how our paternalism and protectionism hinders teens’ ability to become informed, thoughtful, and engaged adults” (Wisniewski, Ghosh, Xu, Rosson, & Carroll, 2017, p. 13). Parents should teach teens the confidence and skills to engage safely and smartly with others online.

Parental Control Resources:

Here are some links for assistance with parental control to help with teen (really all children who can access online content) online safety. Please remember that the most important thing you can do is to have open communication with your children, and additionally, teach them the risks of online safety and when they should speak with you about any concerns.

IPad or IPhone

Free Parental Control Software

Price Comparison Parental Control Software

Top Ten Reviews


Wisniewski, P., Ghosh, A. K., Rosson, M. B., Xu, H., & Carroll, J. M. (2017). Parental control vs. Teen self-regulation: Is there a middle ground for mobile online safety. In Proceedings of the 20th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing, ACM.


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Ipuna Black

Ipuna Black

I’m the mother of four children and have worked in the area of pediatrics as a nurse since 2001. A few initials I have accumulated include: PhD in Nursing, MSN in Nursing, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, and RN. My seven-year-old son was hospitalized in 2015 for almost two months with encephalitis and Guillain Barré syndrome. This gave me a deeper perspective on health and wellness for children, and Healthy Kids Play was born. Healthy Kids Play is a child health and wellness blog sharing resources and information to help parents make informed decisions to keep our children healthy and playing. My mission is to help parents, caretakers, educators, and researchers raise healthy kids by sharing resources and information on the multiple influences on child health (physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and environmental). I hope to inspire others to keep our children playing. After all, they are our next generation.

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