Protecting Your Child Online
You are here:
Internet Family Fun Home > Internet Safety > Setting Limits for Computer Activities
Keeping Them Safe In A Dangerous Place
Setting limits for children is very important especially when it comes to the online world. Letting your child wander around online is exactly like dropping your child off in New York City with a one-day subway pass for unlimited rides to go to what ever neighborhood they want. Of course, you wouldn't drop them off in a strange city for the day and you shouldn't let them wander online without some guidance and limits. Children need limits and they actually like having reasonable limits set because it shows that you care about them (although they may protest). Determining the limits for each child is a difficult task for parents because the one-size-fits-all approach does not work for every child. Limits will be different for ever child because of different ages, personality and experiences.
Parents and Their Role
A teenager's cognitive development has only reached the stage of realizing danger but thinking that bad things only happen to someone else. A younger child may not even recognize danger. There are dangers online; bad neighborhoods and bad people are just one click away. Children that spend a lot of time online and communicate with others online are more likely to be exposed to a predator than the child that just looks up information. Predators are masters at being able to convince your child to do things they wouldn't normally do and they will convince them that you are the enemy and they can't go to you for help. A child, teenager, or even a parent is no match against these criminal deviants. In order to keep your child safe, you must know what is going on and if they won't voluntarily share, it is your responsibility to find out what is going on and to make sure they are safe. In the online world, protect your child the same way that you would in "real life" by wanting to know who your child's friends are and where your child goes.
Levels of Privacy and Setting Limits
The level of computer privacy given to your child is a difficult decision that parents must make for themselves. The level of privacy given will depend on the child's personality and behavior. For instance, should a straight-A student that never breaks curfew have the same level of privacy as a child that is failing in school and is hanging out with a "bad crowd"? What if that straight-A student is gullible and could easily be deceived? If you trust that your child is only looking up useful information online, then you may only check what sites they are visiting occasionally. If your child becomes secretive, then you should check more often. If you find that the history of sites visited is deleted, this is a signal that something is going on and should be investigated. Also, installing filtering software is a good idea, so you don't need to worry as much about them viewing pornography by mistake or on purpose. Email is a difficult subject because the messages probably contain personal information. You may want to monitor who they are communicating with, without reading the actual message. If they start to become secretive about a friend they met online and start to act withdrawn, find out what those messages contain, so you know what that online friend's intentions are.
Let Your Child Know Up-Front
Open up the lines of communication with your child. Set the rules and let your child know what you will be checking. Let them know if you feel it is necessary to monitor their email or check sites visited. Explain to them that the Internet is a dangerous place and you want to protect them, the same way that you want to know who their friends are and where your child goes. Let them know that they can come to you if they run into something wrong or if they are solicited (one in five teens are solicited for sex online).
How To Find Out About Online Activities
- Check History of Sites Visited
- Check Cookie Files
- Monitoring Software
- Consider checking email to see who they are communicating with and reading email that is from people that you don't know.
- Make sure the computer is in a visible place in the house. Ask questions. Walk by and check what is on the screen. If your child quickly closes the screen, this is a red flag and should be investigated.
- More About Internet Safety
Your child may not agree with the rules that you have laid down because they feel mature enough to handle the dangers. As with setting the rules, consequences of breaking the rules, with be different with every child. Clearly communicate with your child what the consequences of breaking the rules will be. Remember that using the computer is not a right; it is a privilege and you don't have to provide the child with computer access. In extreme cases where your relationship with your child is so far out of control that they will not adhere to your rules and you can't stop them from engaging in dangerous behavior, then seek outside help from a counselor.