We’ve all seen the news stories - the daily barrage of sad, unfortunate and sometimes tragic consequences that can occur when technology and kids are combined. As parents, it’s sometimes hard to know quite what to do - and why wouldn’t it be? Let’s face it; many 7 year olds can run circles around their parents when it comes to the family computer.With other parenting strategies, you probably take cues from what your parents did. Your policies regarding homework, bedtime and household chores are likely guided by the rules your parents used with you. But what were your parents rules regarding the home computer? What kind of social networking sites did they let you visit? Was it ok for you to watch YouTube videos? With no good point of reference, we’re on our own here. This is a challenge for our generation of parents - the first to raise online kids. And if you think about it, the technology rules and policies we set for our kids will serve as a guide for what they do to raise their kids.
Parenting your child’s “online life”, doesn’t have to be confusing. Most of the expert’s advice usually just involves applying your everyday common sense parenting style to this part of their life.
Most of the countless articles, books and lectures on this topic can be simplified down to 3 main points:
1) Set limits on when and how long the computer is used. As a parent, it’s essential that you have a way to easily allow, and deny the use of the technology in your house. You also need to know, with certainty, that there’s not a way for your children to use computers without your knowledge. Treat the computer like any other privilege. It’s also important to set and enforce time limits.
2) Create a safe environment.
This is no different from when you let them play at the park. Prior to setting your child free to play, you probably glance around to make sure there are no obvious dangers. (Broken glass at the bottom of the slide, rabid dog roaming the sand box) Think of the computer the same way. Creating a safe computer playground is done with filtering, website blocking and properly setting up your user profiles. I know this is where some parents start to get that glazed look in their eyes. This step does require a little bit of work on your part, but not as much as you think. And there’s no need to pay expensive annual fees for services - a little bit of research and a few minutes spent learning about your operating system and web browser can go a long way.
3) Be “over their shoulder”.
This is the most critical point. As a parent, you can not let yourself be shut out of their online world. It’s important that you know what they do online, and it’s even more important that they know you know! Tell them you’re involved. Engage and ask questions about what they do online. Have them show you the games they play. Remind them often, that you (and the rest of the planet!) may very well see what they do online. This important lesson will save them from embarrassment - at least! (We’re all too familiar with the sometimes tragic consequences that occur when children or teens use poor judgment about what they “tell the world” online)
Computers, cell phones and the internet are a part of our world, and a growing part of your kid’s life. There’s little way around it; Keeping your children safe online and teaching them to use technology with responsibility have been added to your long list of important parenting “must do’s” Every parent has their own tactics and style that best suit their children and lifestyles. No matter what type of parenting you apply – make sure it’s a part of your children’s online world.