By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

 

When your grandchild was younger, staying safe was someone else’s responsibility. Parents, grandparents, caregivers and other loved ones have looked out for your grandchild since the day he/she was born. They made sure your grandchild wore the right clothing to keep warm and healthy, was fed the right foods at the right ages, and watched each step your grandchild took, making sure that play and exploration didn’t get your grandchild into too much trouble.

Fast forward to today, and your baby grandchild is a teenager who is naturally gaining independence. And with independence comes responsibility! The kind of responsibility I’m talking about isn’t about keeping up with schoolwork, keeping a room neat, saving money and or even contributing to household chores. Don’t get me wrong, those are important tasks that I hope that your teen grandchild is – on his/her own – weaving into day-to-day activities.

In this case, the kind of responsibility I’m talking about is very focused on your teens’ judgement to keep himself/herself SAFE – without relying exclusively on technology. Let your teen know:

  • It’s not that your parents or anyone else who loves you, doesn’t care to keep you safe anymore. It’s the reality that the more independent you get, it becomes no longer possible to keep eyes on you in the same way that your loved ones could when you were a much younger person. And truth be told, before too long you will be moving out and living as an independent adult.
  • This means that YOU need to be prepared to manage that responsibility 24/7. So the time is now to start looking out for yourself to be sure that your activities and decisions are not working against you. You need to be sure that the choices you are making, and the ways that you pay attention, keep you free from harm.

At the very youngest of ages, your teen grandchild was likely taught to know his/her home address. Even though your grandchild was taught not to tell strangers where he/she lived, it was an important piece of information to know should your grandchild ever be lost and need to tell a police officer or a trusted adult where he/she lived. Knowing a home address was planting the seed for your teen grandchild to be aware of his/her surroundings.

Have these important discussions with your teen grandchild:

  • Can you navigate your life? Think about the places you typically go, whether it’s to school or to sports activities or to synagogue or church. Can you direct someone else who’s driving to get you to those places?
  • Would you be aware if someone was taking you in a different direction than they were supposed to go? It’s an important question for you, isn’t it. You’ve been brought up in the digital age where everyone relies heavily on technology for information and where technology bridges us to connect with strangers for services like ridesharing. It’s important for you to know how to get places. From memory or from studying a map ahead of time. And don’t just rely on map apps to get you there because sometimes they don’t work. You’re better off using these apps to navigate traffic than to always rely on them for the knowledge that you, as an adult, need to start paying attention to.

Tips for safety to share with your teen grandchild:

  • Start navigating your life by familiarizing yourself with the routes you take each week.
  • Know your route before you go – whether it’s a car ride or a jog, walk, or bike ride.
  • If walking, biking or jogging, be sure to pick a path where others can always see you.
  • Don’t rely 100% on technology for your information. Rely on yourself first wherever possible. Then use technology, to gain further insight to a situation, like being aware of traffic patterns along a known route, or using your own map navigation app when using a ride-sharing service to verify your direction.
  • When you are with a group, don’t let your guard down. While there is safety in numbers, being distracted is what those who wish you harm are looking for.
  • If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, something is probably wrong. Change what you are doing and get to a more secure location.

Most importantly, tell your teen to trust his/her gut! Let them know that they do not need to be concerned about offending someone. If your teen grandchild feels unsafe, it’s up to him/her to make whatever adjustments that are needed to make safety a number one priority.

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Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.