This article discusses our tips on “Parenting the Internet”. What we mean is, that parents must carefully control the Internet usage in the home, especially when minors are involved. The Internet must be actively parented as we will discuss further.
Also look for additional information in the following two articles:
Usually, the first topic of discussion on this subject is Parental Controls. Do they work? How should I use them, etc.? I will get to that in a moment. Most kids are required to use the Internet as part of their learning activities in school systems. I have seen this now in 4th and 5th grade. So kids must use the Internet, and we must have a plan as parents.
First, I would like to establish the Internet Parenting Baseline Set of Rules.
- Minors do not get to use or keep computers or other appliances that connect to the Internet in private places, like their bedrooms.
- All usage of the Internet by minors must be done in public locations, and with approval/knowledge of the parent. This means that as a parent you must pay attention. Having the kids in a public space unmonitored is as dangerous as having then unmonitored in private spaces. It is easy as a click to hide or close a window that would reveal where they are going.
- A clear definition of what sites and applications are allowed and not allowed (things like instant messaging, chat rooms, blogs, and social networking sites MySpace, Facebook, virtual worlds such as Club Penguin, RuneScape, Gaia, Webkinz). Get a list of recommended sites from your school, and save them in favorites.
- A clear definition of time and time frame must be made. Some folks like inexpensive kitchen timers that “ding” when time is up. Time can fly when you are running in the Internet.
- Parents must routinely monitor Internet usage, especially in the younger minors, where freedom to supervise and be supervised along with the trust must be built. The Internet is not a babysitter — it’s a doorway to the entire world.
- Any and all user names and passwords must be shared with Parents, and parents – please provide equal inverse access to some of your passwords. This develops trust.
- Open communication about how the Internet works (see discussion later), and an open forum for questions and discussion within the family is critical.
- No private email or social networking accounts until High School. Start with a shared email account with your child so you can monitor messages.
- Take your child seriously if he or she reports an uncomfortable online exchange. Forward copies of obscene or threatening messages you or your kids get to your Internet service provider. Call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at (800) 843-5678 if you’re aware of the transmission, use, or viewing of child pornography online. Contact your local law enforcement agency or the FBI if your child has received child pornography via the Internet.
- Promise each other – maybe with a parent/child contract – strict enforcement of the rules.
Online tools are available that will let you control your kids’ access to adult material and help protect them from Internet predators. No option is going to guarantee that they’ll be kept away from 100% of the risks on the Internet. So it’s important to be aware of your kids’ computer activities and educate them about online risks.
Many Internet service providers (ISPs) provide parent-control options to block certain material from coming into a computer. You can also get software that helps block access to certain sites based on a “bad site” list that your ISP creates. Filtering programs can block sites from coming in and restrict personal information from being sent online. Other programs can monitor and track online activity. Also, make sure your kids create a screen name to protect their real identity.
The problem is that these tools can be defeated (just type “defeat parental controls” into your search bar!). That does not mean we do not recommend using them. Just do not depend on them completely, period. I chose to not use them at all, and I advised my children of this fact. It worked better than I expected, as they know danger lurks at every corner.
How The Internet Works and The Dangers That Lurk
The Internet, email and chat-rooms offer everyone the equal opportunity to lie and be lied to. It’s easy to say anything and it’s easy to pretend to be someone you’re not. It’s easy in any area of life to get taken advantage of or hurt, and on the Internet it’s even easier. A clever, creepy, “dirty-old-man” predator can effectively masquerade as an 8 year old girl, a 14 year old boy, an understanding and caring 19 year old woman, a professional — ANYTHING.
Warning signs of a child being targeted by an online predator include spending long hours online, especially at night, phone calls from people you don’t know, or unsolicited gifts arriving in the mail. If your child suddenly turns off the computer when you walk into the room, ask why and monitor computer time more closely. Withdrawal from family life and reluctance to discuss online activities are other signs to watch for.
Checking on History and Usage
Many sites use “cookies,” devices that track specific information about the user, such as name, email address, and shopping preferences. Cookies can be disabled. Ask your Internet service provider for more information.
Using the Internet To Teach Your Kids
The Internet is perhaps the best learning tool ever to come along. If you don’t believe this check out the video here (it may be the most interesting 18 minutes you invest in you and your child’s learning) then come back and finish reading.
Here is what you need to do:
- Get a list of things to have them research.
- Look up a list of inventors.
- Here are so great questions:
- Why is the sky blue?
- Why does a tree’s leaves change color in the fall?
- What is static electricity?
- What is a genetic trait? Give 4 examples.
- Why can airplanes fly?
- What virus causes the common cold?
- How does a superconductor work?
- Give your child one of the items or questions from your list.
- Tell them they have 10 minutes to research the item, and tell you 2 key things about the item. (With my inventors, I wanted to know what they invented and why their invention was important). Make sure the two things answer a ‘why’ type question.
- Tell them they must provide references for their answers. (I like to have the web source printed out and highlighted).
- No matter what they bring you, praise them. Be a “loving Grandparent”. Assure them they ‘can’ do it. Tell them where they could have learned more. If they come back with nothing, give them a second chance.
- You will find they will get the answers in about 2 minutes from the Internet, and then spend the rest of the time reading and learning to explain it to you. Do not expect them to get it right or perfect.
- Have the child keep the materials in a folder so they can look at it again and read more….they will!
I promise, you will be astonished at what your child can teach themselves. You will also be amazed at what they will teach you.
Here are some other great links:
Rules to Follow When Using Internet Web Sites
- Restrict viewing of your profile only to people you know in real life. Setting your profile to “private” allows only trusted friends to view your information. You still have to be careful what you post, but it’s less likely that someone creepy will view your personal profile.
- Only visit profiles of people you know. Stick with the profiles of people you know and trust. It makes it less likely you’ll run into someone who’ll try to hurt you, but it also helps protect you from downloading viruses and malware to your computer.
- Never post suggestive pictures or information on your profile. If you wouldn’t show it to your parents or grandparents, it’s not ok to put it online. You may think it’s just for fun, but other people might get the wrong idea. Also, people can download those pictures, so they might haunt you for a long time to come.
- Never post false information about other people. No matter how funny it may seem, don’t do it. Things you say about other people can hurt them now and in the future. Besides which, it’s just as easy for someone to do it to you!
- Never post anything on your profile that you wouldn’t say in public. Your profile isn’t private. Colleges are looking to see what you’re doing online and so are businesses. As strange as it may sound, you could end up getting rejected from your top school because of things you post. If that doesn’t convince you, things posted on profiles have been known to break up relationships.
- Not everything you read is true. Have you ever pretended to be someone else online? Have you ever said something that wasn’t true? It happens all of the time. Don’t believe everything you read. People pretend to be older or younger and sometimes guys pretend to be girls and girls pretend to be guys. You just can’t believe everything you read, even if you want to.
- Never share personal information such as phone numbers, addresses, etc. online. It’s dangerous, plain and simple.
- Kids must talk to their parents before meeting anyone in person. “If you’d like to meet someone in person, talk to your parents about it”. Ask your parents about meeting the person in a public place, like the mall food court, where your parents can be nearby to make sure you’re safe. That way, you protect yourself, but can still have some fun.
- If you’re not sure, talk to an adult. If you see something online that makes you scared, sad, or worried, tell someone. Find an adult that you trust and talk to them. It might be your parents, an aunt or uncle, a coach or a teacher. Whoever you think can help you out and make you feel safe. You should also do this if one of your friends has seen something or looks like they might be in trouble.
There are no measures that will keep your children as safe as having a parent or a parent-figure surfing along side of them or at least frequently leaning over their shoulder — and discussing with regularity about their experiences on the net. Like most of the rest of the delights in the world, you cannot expect legislation — and you especially cannot expect industry self-regulation to protect your kids. You need to. You need to be there in the seat next to them. You need to make the time and muster the patience to share your kids’ interests.
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