How to Raise Children in a Computer Age
Computer Safety for Children
Forget the question whether you know what your teenager is doing on the internet... do you know what your preschooler is doing on the computer ? Personal computers (or PCs) have changed substantially in the past 25-30 years, coming down in price, size and increasingly portable. Its not unusual for a family to have 3-4 PCs, all of which may be fired up at the same time.
Parental monitoring of children's computer usage is critical for a number of reasons. Not only is there the chance that they could click on an inappropriate site, but child predators change tactics frequently to avoid detection. Your child could be a victim without your even knowing it.
Even seemingly "safe" people could pose a problem on some of the popular social networking sites, like Facebook and MySpace. Visitors may lie about their age and identity, with dangerous consequences.
What Can you do as a Parent to Encourage Child Safety on Computers?
First of all, know what your child knows. Are they internet-savvy? Do they have their own computer at home and/or school? Make sure that you keep an eye on where they are surfing and making sure that school instruction is supervised so that your child does not wander off to an inappropriate site. The best filters in the world cannot take place of your own personal monitoring.
Also, realize that handheld devices like iPods and iPhones are computerized devices, and your child may download inappropriate videos and songs to them, as well as surf the internet from them. Learn how to use these popular devices and decide whether your child is mature enough to have one.
Second, it is best to place computers in your home in a public area so that you will be walking through on a regular basis. If the computer screen is not hidden, then your child may be less likely to go to inappropriate sites, out of curiosity or request. Laptops in bedrooms may not be your best bet...
Third, install filters on your computers. Research and install the best and most effective ways to keep children away from inappropriate sites, and predators away from your kids. Test the filters by running sample searches to make sure that they are catching what you believe to be offensive material in your home.
References for Parents of Computer-Age Kids
Talk to Your Kids About Computer and Internet Safety - Frequently!
Just as children are instructed not to talk to strangers in the "real world," you need to have safety discussions with your kids about cyberspace danger. The basic rules are:
- Don't give out your real name
- Don't give out your age
- Don't give out your address - including your city and state!
- Don't give out your telephone number
- Don't believe everything you read!
If your child is using facebook, the settings can be established so that only "friends" can see personal information (note that the minimum age for Facebook is 13 years old). Kids should be careful about who they invite as "friends." These people should only be actual people with whom your child has a connection at school or in extracurricular activities.
Have an ongoing discussion with your kids about the sites that they visit and make sure that they feel comfortable about discussing any issues with you that have given them concern. If they play online computer games, set limits on the amount of time spent at the sites, and remind them that it is only a game! You may find that talking to a school age child is easier than to a teenager. But, if you establish a good computer-savvy relationship when your child is in elementary school, it may continue through the teenage years.
Remember that you are the parent! You can and should set rules, and know where your kids are going, not only in the real world, but also in cyberspace. It can be daunting as technology advances at lightening speed and new gadgets come out each year. Nonetheless, its imperative that you educate yourself to be the best protector and guardian of your child!
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