Children are surrounded by computer technology, both during and after school.
Digital education and widespread use of the Internet is a fact of life today, and it’s important for kids to learn how to responsibly use the many tools available on computers and smart devices.
However, unsupervised access to technology can create risks for children.
Just as schools have policies on the acceptable use of technology by students, it’s also important for parents to develop rules and exercise supervision to preserve privacy and avoid problems such as sexting and cyberbullying.
Technology is constantly changing and evolving. The popular technology of today may be completely different a year from now. It can be hard for parents to keep up.
Many of us who are parents now didn’t grow up with email, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, instant text messaging, and smart phones with cameras.
As parents, we share the concern about how we can best ensure safety for children on the internet.
We hope this guide will provide you with helpful information that you can use to develop rules that was like your own value as a parent.
Kids & Computer in Classroom
Computers have found their way into the classroom.
Schools across the country and now provide students with access to computers. Many now require that each student has their own device for school such as a laptop, computer, or tablet such as an iPad.
New teaching methods are now incorporating web-based research on the internet, digital collaboration, and digital storytelling.
Students are expected to become proficient with applications such as word processing and PowerPoint presentations. Basic computer skills are now a required building block for digital education.
Nowadays, literacy also includes computer literacy, and extends outside of the school building.
It can be confusing for parents who didn’t have these tools when they were in school. It can be even more difficult to keep up because computer technology is constantly changing and evolving.
If you need help keeping up with all of the new and changing technologies or even just understanding computer basics, consider taking a class at the local public library, reaching out to your local school, getting an instructional book, or find another resource for help.
Technology in the classroom is here to stay. Of course, computers present risk as well as benefits.
That’s why schools have rules about how students use computers, and expect students to act responsibly and follow those rules.
All schools must have acceptable use policies that define what is and is not acceptable use of computer resources at school.
Typically, these rules are designed to exclude certain types of content from being accessed on the internet. If the school becomes aware of a problem, it will usually be dealt with at school.
Kids also use technology after school, at home, and elsewhere. Parents may wonder how best to monitor their child’s use of technology and what kind of rules they should require to ensure that their child is using the technology safely and responsibly.
This post contains tips to think about when developing your own rules for children at home about the use of computers, smartphones, and other devices with internet access.
Teaching Children about Technology
When children have access to technology, it is a good idea for parents to monitor and supervise their child’s use of that technology.
First of all, that means monitoring the content that a child has access to on the internet.
There is a lot of great content on the web, some of it specially designed for use by children such as PBS Kids or National Geographic Kids.
There’s also a lot of inappropriate content that you may not want your child to see.
There are pornographic and sexually oriented sites. There are sites that may glorify inappropriate behavior such as alcohol abuse, illegal drugs, online gambling, eating disorders, and suicide.
Some sites contain violent, hateful or other inappropriate content to which you may not want your child exposed.
Be aware of what your child is doing and whether or not those sites reflect the values that are important to you as a parent. Your child’s interests will change as they grow older.
Whether or not a site is appropriate depends on your child’s age as well as on your values as a parent. While you can respect your child’s need for some privacy, especially as they grow older, you can explain that it is still your responsibility as a parent to ensure their safety online by having rules and setting limits.
The first line of defense is always to talk with your child, explore the internet together, and have them explain to you what sites they are visiting and what services they use.
Make sure they understand that just like for TV shows or movies, there are websites that are not appropriate for children. You can bookmark safe child appropriate sites so that your child can easily find them later.
As your child grows older, you can continue to explore the internet with them and encourage them to develop critical-thinking skills to evaluate the information they find on the web.
The internet can be a great source of information, but not everything on the web is reliable. Anybody can create a website. Teach your child to ask questions about what they find on the web.
- Who put that information there?
- What are their credentials?
- Where does the information come from?
- How do we know whether or not it is reliable?
- Is it from a business selling a product?
- Is it sponsored by a group with an agenda?
- Does that group have a bias?
- Is that group trying to convince you of a particular point of view?
These are important critical thinking skills that every child should develop as they grow older that will help them be savvier when it comes to evaluating information they find on the internet.
Monitoring Your Children’s Computer Use
It’s a good idea for you as a parent to monitor what content your child is viewing on the internet.
Many internet browsers contain parental controls that can help you filter the content to which your child has access. You can also view an internet browser history log to see a list of recent websites your child has visited.
Some internet service providers may also provide filters to allow for parental control of the contents. There are also family safety computer software programs available.
These types of programs can help you do things like: monitor and track internet use, restrict the content to let your child has accessed by blocking or filtering inappropriate or offensive content, set time limits for being online, control access to chat rooms, keep your child from posting for sending personal information online, and view your child email or reject email from specific addresses.
Some programs can even send you a regular report of websites that your child has accessed or attempted to access. These programs are available to help empower you as a parent to better protect your child online.
While automatic control such as these can be very useful tools for parents they are not perfect. Mistakes do happen and some children can learn to get around content filters.
Don’t rely entirely on parental controls to screen the content your child views on the internet.
Make sure to monitor their computer use yourself. Talk to your child and find out how they are accessing the internet.
Keep in mind your child may be accessing the internet from a cell phone, a gaming system or some other electronic device.
Also they may be accessing it at a friend’s house or at the library.
Setting Limits on Technology
Just like television, it’s a good idea to set time limits on your child access to the internet.
Children need physical exercise, play time with friends, and time for homework and adequate rest.
Set rules about when your child can go online, for how long, what site they can visit, whether or not they can post pictures or use a webcam, and who they can communicate with online. Explain what sites or activities are off-limits and why.
Consider making certain times of the day off limits: such as dinner time, homework time, or anytime your child is at home alone by themselves. It is up to you to come up with rules that you were comfortable with and it reflects your values as a parent.
But once you establish the rules, enforce them consistently. The rules may change over time as your child grows older and matures.
But it’s up to you to ensure that your child is safe when they access the internet and go online it is also a good idea to limit the locations where your child has access to the internet.
Be Concerned about Your Child’s Online Privacy
Make sure and child knows never to give out personal information over the Internet.
This includes address, telephone number, passwords, and bank account or credit card numbers. Some sites may require child to set up a screen name.
To set up an instant messaging, social media profile or for gaming. Help your child set up the account to ensure that they don't give away too much personal information.
Most social networking applications have privacy settings. Find out how the privacy settings work and make sure your child is using them. It's a good idea to limit online friends to people your child actually knows.
Many smartphones have GPS or social mapping capabilities that allow you to find your location of your friends on a map and for them to find your location.
Again, take advantage of privacy features available on your child's phone, or in applications they may be using.
When setting up a password your child should use the strong combination of letters and numbers.
But you should know the passwords for any accounts that are set up on a device used by your child, so that you can monitor their use of the account and delete any inappropriate content or private information.
- Make sure your child knows not to share their password with friends and not to respond to messages they don't know the sender.
- Tell your child never to reveal online that they are home alone.
Help your child to understand that once the information is out there it is very difficult to control who will have access to it and it may be out there forever.
That’s why online privacy is so important.
Social media applications in websites allow people to connect online and share information about them. They can help family and friends stay in touch over long distances or build a network of friends who share a common interest.
Popular sites include: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. People including many young people regularly use social media, it’s up to you as parents control how much and what age you are comfortable with your children participating.
If your child wants to use social media site talk it over with them and then make an informed decision.
Keep in mind that social media sites can be accessed not only on the computer but also on gaming systems, smartphones and other devices with internet access.
Many social media sites require users to be over a certain age such as 13 years for Facebook.
Even so, kids can misrepresent there age and set up an account. It is up to parents to learn about what social media your child may be accessing online and set appropriate limits and monitor their use.
Ask your child if they have set up a social media account.
- If they have an online account, review it regularly.
- Make sure you know your child’s username and password so that you can look at the account yourself.
That way you can monitor their online profile and see who your child is connecting with online. If you don’t already have one consider creating an account for yourself and friend your child online, so you can monitor what they are posting.
Make sure your child’s privacy controls are set to strict setting. It’s a good idea to limit who can see their information so it is not open to general public.
On Facebook, for example, you can set the privacy settings so that content is available to friends only and not publicly that everybody who looks at the profile.
When setting up a profile, you don’t have to include all the information requested.
You don't have to enable automatic location features that tell other users where you are and who you are with.
Children don’t always know what is appropriate to share and what is not. Encourage your child to think before they post.
Once it’s out there, it could be out there forever and there’s no way to control whether the content is copied, forwarded, shared or reposted by others whether your child realizes it or not.
Even if a message is deleted on your child’s account, a copy could still exist somewhere else.
Remind your child not to post anything that they wouldn’t want a parent or grandparent, a teacher, college admissions officer or a potential future employer to see. If you see inappropriate content on your child’s account, have your child get rid of it.
If you come across inappropriate content on website or social networking sites, you can often report it to the site where it was found.
If you find explicit messages or child pornography, report it to your local law enforcement agency and don’t delete the message until law enforcement tells you that it is no longer needed as evidence.
Kids can be bullied humiliated, threatened or harassed online just like they can be in person.
It can happen on email, through instant text messages, social media on websites or other forms of electronic communication such as blogs or chat rooms.
Cyberbullying can cause serious emotional pain and result in depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, problems in school, social isolation, and in some cases has even been the cause of teen suicide.
Make sure your child knows that if they are ever threatened, harassed, sent sexual photographs or messages, or ask to do anything that they are uncomfortable with – they should not answer.
They should immediately end contact with the sender and tell a parent or other trusted adult right away. If your child is subjected to cyberbullying by school classmates, report it to the school administration immediately.
If your child is being harassed online, report it to law enforcement so that it can be investigated.
- Make sure your child knows never to respond to emails that are sexual, obscene or threatening and never forward such messages to anyone else.
- Encourage your child to tell a parent or other trusted adult if they see something online that makes them feel scared, unsafe or uncomfortable.
- If you see a message like that, you should save the message so there's a record of the communication.
You may want to block any future offensive or harassing messages from certain senders by using a blocking feature in the email program for social media application.
Also, encourage your child to stand up and support any friends that have been victims of cyberbullying and advised them to take the steps we just talked about.
Finally, talk with your child about how important it is not to use the internet to say hurtful or mean things about others or to harass others. Not only does it hurt the other person but your child to get into trouble either in school or with the law.
Cyber bullies do get caught and they can face serious consequences.
Encourage your child to treat people with politeness and respect on the internet, just like they should interact with others in person.
Some people call this “netiquette” – it means proper etiquette for online communication. If your child doesn’t engage in problem behaviors online, consider taking away their internet access, or turn to school counselors for help.
It is important to explain to your child that people online may not always be who they say they are. Some people may use a false online identity to attempt to communicate with a child about inappropriate things.
Online predators may attempt to get close to or groom at targeted child. They typically leave a child into believing that they’re communicating with someone close to their own age.
They may claim to love that child, send them gifts, discuss sex, and convince the child to keep the online relationship a secret.
The goal may be to arrange an in-person meeting, convince the child to provide pornographic images or harm the child in other ways.
Make sure that your child knows only to accept friend request on social media, or enter into an online communication such as online chats with people whose identity they already know.
Also, keep reinforcing the important message that when you share something online, you can’t control who sees it.
It may be forwarded to others, and there’s nothing you can do to control it.
Make sure that your child knows that if someone with whom they communicate online tries to set up an in-person meeting with them that they should tell you right away.
We hope this guide has given you some helpful suggestions about how to monitor your child’s use of technology, and set appropriate limits that reflect your own values as a parent.
Technology is always changing.
As a parent you may require some effort to keep up with the latest developments.