What are your children looking at, listening to, and reading while on the Internet? The Internet has become a source of almost endless information and resources. There are great uses for the Internet. For example, comparing electronic equipment online before buying is something that I almost always do. Also, students can use online encyclopedias for writing research reports. It’s hard to think of a time when we didn’t have such quick and easy access to almost endless types of information. Just think of the great information you are receiving on www.families.com because of the Internet!
Of course, there are opposites of most things in this world. The Internet has its bad and even ugly side that somehow reaches our children (including teenagers), even after our best efforts to thwart such attacks. If you have caught the evening news or read a quick newspaper headline, you have seen incidents of child predators, stalkers, and child pornography rings. If you are a concerned parent, and I know I am, and want to do anything you can to guard and prepare your children and teenagers for the bad and ugly sides of the Internet, then let’s discuss a few ideas that will help you on your way. Check back in the coming weeks for more in depth blogs on some of these topics.
● Computer placement. Try to make sure your computer is in a public place in your home where lots of people walk by. I have a friend who actually knocked out a wall in his house so that his computer was in a public place and not behind a closed wall. Computers with Internet access in children’s bedrooms is a risky idea, since the children are often in their bedroom without adult supervision.
● Pay attention. Similar to when your child is a newborn, you have to be alert and attentive at all times when your child is on the Internet. How can I be constantly paying attention to my child as she is on the Internet, you ask? Well, you don’t have to be a hovering vulture, but a little pop-in now and then to see how your child is doing can go a long way. Some parents go as far as checking the Internet history and temporary Internet file folder after their children use the Internet.
● Internet filters. If your children have to use the Internet unsupervised, make sure they know and agree to the computer rules. Check out www.safekids.com for lots of great tips on making your child’s Internet experience safe and enjoyable. Also, Internet safety programs such as Net Nanny, Cyber Patrol, SurfWatch, or CYBERsitter can help control access to inappropriate pages and chat rooms. I’ll review some of these programs in upcoming blogs.
● Most importantly, talk with your children about the Internet. Regularly sit down with your children and talk about the Internet and the things they see and read. I am convinced that if more parents would have open discussions with their children about Internet safety, some of the problems that children get themselves into could be avoided.
We teach our children to “never talk to strangers,” yet the Internet is a world full of strangers who are hidden behind computer monitors and fancy websites.