The Internet

According to recent estimates by Internet World Stats, more than 1 billion people worldwide and 225 million in North America alone have access to the Internet.

There are things about the Internet that concern many parents. Young people have easier access than ever before to information ranging from immensely helpful to devastatingly hurtful. The reality, though, is that most of what kids do Web-wise falls somewhere in between. And the good news is that the “rules” about keeping kids safe and healthy haven’t changed that much from when our parents were worrying about us: set clear boundaries, monitor their behavior, keep lines of communication open, and enforce consequences when necessary. Here are some examples.

Tips for . . .

  • parents with children ages birth to 5
    • As much as possible, keep young children off the Internet and limit computer use until they go to school. They will pick up the skills they need soon enough, you don’t need to worry about giving them a “head start.”
    • Set a good example by limiting your own use of computers and the Internet, especially when your kids are around.
    • parents with children ages 6 to 9
    • When your children have questions you can’t answer, use the Internet together to do research. Show them how to find reliable information by choosing sights created by familiar and respected organizations (such as the Mayo Clinic for health or NASA for space exploration).
    • If possible, keep computers in the common areas of your home, not in bedrooms, offices, or other rooms where kids can spend long periods of time unsupervised.
    • Help your children set up email accounts and provide them with one or two addresses (such as yours and another relative’s). Teach them how to send clear, well-written messages.
    • parents with children ages 10 to 15
    • Talk with your children about your concerns. Explain that there are people who use the Internet to hurt other people by stealing from them or tricking them into unsafe relationships.
    • Check out the Web sites that are popular among your children and their friends. If you don’t know which ones they go to, ask them, or ask other parents.
    • Take cyberbullying—cruel messages sent to or about young people via instant message, chat rooms, and other electronic means—seriously. Though this kind of intimidation or ostracizing may seem relatively harmless, it can strike a major blow to a young person’s confidence, self-esteem, sense of safety, and social support systems.
    • parents with children ages 16 to 18
    • Invest in high-quality Internet software that can track all activity, including chats, email, and Web access. Let your teens know you will regularly check on what they are doing online (and then be sure to do it).
  • Talk with your teens about what they do online. Ask what they think their friends do. Ask if they think their peers ever feel threatened or uncomfortable about things they see or do online (it’s often easier for teens to talk about their friends’ experiences than about their own).

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