Tech Rules and Other People’s Kids

Today’s technology presents a constant struggle for parents to maintain balance and ensure safety. Even with house rules, technology contracts, filters, blockers, and net-nannies in place, every day can feel like a battle. Boundary-pushing kids keep their parents on guard and hyper-vigilant.

What happens when your kids visit another family’s home where parental supervision is lacking? And, alternatively, what about when kids from free-for-all homes come to your place?

My House, My Rules

The second scenario is a little easier to manage because you still have some control. Let the friends and their parents know your house rules. Tell your child that having a friend over changes nothing as far as expectations go. Collect all devices at night to save yourself a headache (see Sleepover Shenanigans, below.) Make sure the friend’s parents know your landline number so they can contact their child.)

Let your child know that you’ll be expecting most of their activity to be tech-free. Be sure to have alternatives on hand–maybe a few favourite board games or some ingredients to bake brownies. It’s sad to witness a birthday party or movie night where every teen guest is bent over his or her phone, checking Facebook or Instagram, instead of enjoying the moment.

Their House, Our Rules

Tell your children that you expect them to abide by your technology rules no matter where they are. However, be realistic. Kids can be armed with high standards, but they may be swayed by peer pressure or drift into dangerous territory from a lack of supervision. Good intentions and wishful thinking won’t keep your kids from cyber harm.

It is perfectly fine to tell the friend’s parents your family’s technology standards. Ask them about their house rules and what internet protection they have in place. If you’re not comfortable, consider inviting their child to your place instead.

Sleepover Shenanigans

Prank calls, Truth or Dare, and Spin-the-Bottle are old-school as far as risky sleepover fun goes. Nowadays, some kids create late-night mischief with technology. All they need is a device and Wi-Fi (or a 3G phone) and an off-guard parent.

Here’s a common middle school scenario. Friends A and B are having a sleepover. A contacts C on iMessage, Skype, or Facetime without telling C that B is present. A makes a snarky comment about B to get C to say something mean about B. B finds out how C “really feels” about her, and they end up in fight that follows them to school the next week. C feels victimised and bullied by A and B, and C’s parents ring A’s. And on and on it goes.

For a real adrenaline rush, kids on a sleepover might dare one another to google iffy topics, post or text “sultry” (even semi-naked or worse) selfies on SnapChat, or talk to a stranger on Omegle. Welcome to the Gen Y spin on Truth or Dare.

Sometimes it’s all meant as silly, meaningless fun, but the consequences can be dire and long-lasting. Interestingly, if you quiz these risk-taking kids, they know the cybersafety rules backwards and forwards; they just lack the brain maturity to connect the risk to themselves and the present situation.

Let’s Be Clear…

House rules are important, and it’s acceptable to extend those rules to visiting kids. Just be sure everyone knows what’s expected in advance. And, if you allow sleepovers, don’t forget to collect the devices and/or turn off the Wi-Fi at night. Nobody gets up to anything good at 3:00 AM, least of all teenagers.