Sue Scheff: Strategies to keep your teens safe

Monitoring teens is an art form. Too much and teens will rebel or not learn the skills they need to function on their own. And too little monitoring can result in behaviors that spell trouble. What to do? Here are some strategies to consider for keeping track of teens.

Monitoring Teens

  • Know where our teens are – especially on evening and weekends. 
  • Let teens know that using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs is illegal and unacceptable, and that it would upset you – very much.
  • Monitor television programs teens watch.
  • Set rules about the music teens listen to.
  • Know how teens are doing in school. Don’t blow off parent-teacher meetings.
  • Monitor Internet use. This is a big one. Keep computers in “public” rooms of the house.
  • Try to eat together on a regular basis (without the TV, please).
  • Curfews are good. Enforce them. And know the curfew laws in your community.
  • Check in when teens come home from school.
  • Have family routines.
  • Insist your teen gives you the name and phone number when visiting friends.
  • Contact your cable company – have parental control installed to remove unacceptable programs such as MTV.
  • Insist your teen provide you with his/her password. If they refuse do not give them computer access.
  • Insist your teen never give out their real name, phone number, email address, home address on-line.
  • Purchase parental control software which will allow to restrict websites & topical areas.
  • Purchase software which will allow you to view your teen’s history, email, etc.
  • For more information on parental control software visit the
  • Do not allow teens to have television sets, VHS, DVD players in their bedrooms.
  • Greet your teen whenever they come home in the evening, stay up until they arrive home. Check out how their night went. Check for any substance use.
  • Monitor cell phone records.

Respect Our Teens By:

  • Explaining why we need to know about their activities. 
  • Acknowledging their need for independence.
  • Recognizing as teens mature, our expectations should change accordingly.
  • Nurturing their self-sufficiency. Build trust by giving more freedom gradually.
  • First and foremost, express your love to your teen and that it is your job as a parent to ensure their well-being.
  • Negotiate expanding rules as your teen matures.
  • Act as your teen’s pre-frontal cortex, the place in the brain that helps us make good decisions. The pre-frontal cortex doesn’t fully mature until young people reach twenty-five. Help your teen think through their plans for the night. Sometimes teens simply don’t have the experience to make good decisions. Role play potential problems. “What would you do if…?”
  • Be a parent not a pal.

To Keep My Teen Safe, I pledge to…
Be my teen’s parent first, friend second
Consistently enforce clear rules and consequences
Listen to my teen in both word and action
Support the school system and its policies
Know where my teen is and whom they are with
Get to know the parents of my teen’s friends
Actively supervise teens in my home
Talk to my teen about the effects of alcohol and drugs
Not provide alcohol to minors and lock up any alcohol in my home
Be positive with my teen, and provide a good example
Brought to you by Project Northland (Farmington & Lakeville, MN.2004)

When All Else Fails…

Sometimes the best plans don’t work and teens find themselves in over their heads. Have a family code and suggest your teen can call to ask, “Did my clothes get ironed for tomorrow?” Go get them, no questions asked.