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How much internet freedom should teens have?

There is no single rule that dictates how much freedom a teenager should have on the internet. Instead, parents should take things on a case-by-case basis.

A child who shows less maturity may need a lot of online monitoring, while a more mature teen who has the ability to make healthy decisions likely will not need as much.

Here are a few basic tips when it comes to monitoring your teenager’s online activity:

• Consider installing basic software on computers that will prevent access to pornography or other inappropriate content, but understand that many teenagers have found ways to get around a lot of these monitoring devices.

• Assess whether or not it would be helpful to install applications that will send you alerts about your child’s online activities. There are many apps and programs that can send parents an alert if a teen is using language or accessing photos that could signal trouble. These types of programs will not tell you everything your teen is doing, but can warn you of potential danger.

• Educate yourself about the internet. If you do not understand how social media and texting work, you will not be able to have conversations with your teen about the potential risks involved. Talk to your child about things that should never be posted on social media.

• Establish rules about online activity. For example, only allow computers to be accessed in common areas of your home. That way, your teen will understand that you may be looking over his shoulder at any time.

• Understand that monitoring programs do not replace conversations with children about the dangers of the internet. Have regular chats about potential dangers. Look for news stories about teenagers and the internet. Also, have regular conversations with children about how the internet can be positive.

• Do not invade your teen’s privacy by trying to secretly spy on their activity. Have conversations about what you plan to do — whether you are going to check the history regularly or whether you want to review social media accounts daily.

Open, direct communication is an important part of maintaining a healthy relationship.

• For more information, visit http://parentingteens.about.com