Many parents try to limit their children’s time on the internet by banning them from using popular social media apps such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and WhatsApp. However, children, especially the ones in their teenage years, are notoriously innovative in finding ways to communicate with each other even if their parents are very committed to remaining in control.

And sometimes parents are being outsmarted – next time you check your kids’ screen time, and you see that they have spent a few hours using Google’s office suite, they might not have been working on the latest school assignment but chatting with other kids. The most recent trend amongst the youngsters is to use Google Docs documents as chat rooms where they share links, photos, and memes.

Children can exploit Google docs by simply creating a document and adding all their friends as collaborators. Once all children have access to the same word doc online file, they can use it as a background to include text and communicate with each other. After they are done with the chat, youngsters tend to ‘destroy the evidence’ by deleting the online word doc. However, nowadays online behavior is no longer as anonymous as it used to be when the internet was born. Very often kids take screenshots or pictures of the chats as “evidence” and share it with friends and family. Youngsters are struggling to realize that online actions often lead to real-life consequences, as these screenshots could then be shared with anyone, including parents or teachers, and may even be posted on social media.

Children will be children. They would always find a way to utilize the power of technology to express themselves. While chats on a spreadsheet in an online word doc sound pretty innocent, sometimes things get a bit heated. Bullies know that those “chat rooms” are not being monitoring and are used by them to intimidate others or to share age-inappropriate content. It is essential for parents to explain that any type of suspected cyberbullying or harassment needs to be reported to an adult no matter the platform where this has happened.

Parents need to keep in mind that anti-virus software solutions often come with parental controls that allow them to have full control over their kids’ mobile devices. While this step is necessary, and the perfect way to stay in control of your children’s lives, mommy and daddy must remember that the forbidden fruit is always the sweetest.

Teaching children how to behave online is as important as teaching them how to act in the real world. Limiting children from social media and preventing them from seeing explicit content is essential, but highlighting why those restrictions are being imposed is a must. At the end of the day, the forbidden fruit may not sound that appealing if you can explain to your little ones that it is rotten from the inside.

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