Five Secrets for Parents to Help Encourage Responsible Use of the Internet


© 2000 Marty W. Stewart

Children are increasingly using the Internet for schoolwork, research, communicating through e-mail and live chat, and downloading information such as music files and streamline video. As technology progresses and children find even more need to use the Internet, parents must develop clear-cut and consistent rules while children are online.

Establishing these rules can be quite a challenge for many parents. Because most children over the age of 10 or 11 probably know more about the Internet than mom or dad, it's imperative that parents continue to absorb what is available to children and communicate and teach responsibility while spending time online.

Many parents want to rely solely on content filtering software or kid-safe Web sites, but many times this is just not enough. As children grow with the ever-changing online landscape, parents must make sure children are prepared to handle the content increasingly available to them.

Here are five secrets parents can use to encourage safe and responsible use of the Internet: 

Place your family’s computer in a room in the house that is centrally located and easy for parents to walk by to monitor or participate in what a child is viewing. It is recommended not to let a child have a computer in his/her room or behind closed doors. This will only contribute to a child’s false sense of security while on-line and hinder parents’ efforts to stay involved in what children are doing while using the computer.

Limit the amount of time a child spends on-line. Like any other activity, using the Internet should be done in moderation and not interfere with other healthy activities for children. Once a child chooses to spend time on-line rather than interacting with other children face-to-face, or his/her other interests seem to always come second to the computer, then it may be time to review with the child how important is to show moderation while enjoying the Internet.

Spend time with children online. Get involved with a child’s interests on the Internet. If a child is chatting with friends, e-mailing jokes back and forth, or playing on-line games, a parent must keep up to date on the various goings on. Sit down and observe what children are using the computer for. Parents need to help children explore the vast resources of the Internet, and educate them on what the Internet has to offer. Surfing the Internet with a child or establishing a joint e-mail account between parent and child will also help parents stay in touch.

Monitor what your children are doing and where they are going while online. This can be the trickiest of challenges for parents, but it is so vital to make sure children do not stray into areas of the Internet that contain inappropriate and possibly harmful material. If a child strays from pre-designated safe Web sites, parents should use healthy parenting skills such as reinforcing agreed upon parameters, perhaps even taking away online privileges as a natural consequence of not following rules.

Set up a "responsible use contract" between parents and children. Sending e-mail, surfing the Web and downloading files are all activities that children will be doing while connected to the Internet and parents need to make agreements with children on responsible behavior. By establishing the rules of responsible use early, there should be no confusion as to what is considered responsible and safe use of the Internet. (A free  "contract" is available at http://www.ResponsibleKids.net/contract.htm)

The Internet offers children unprecedented access to incredibly valuable information and it's up to parents to promote responsible online use.

About the Author:
Marty W. Stewart is author of How to Survive the Internet With Your Kids and 101 Tips on How to Survive the Summer With Your Kids." Have questions about parenting and the Internet? Email Marty: Marty@ResponsibleKids.net

FREE Family Internet Survival Guide
Email: safekids@sendfree.com
How to Survive the Internet With Your Kids
http://www.ResponsibleKids.net/internet.htm
It’s been called the BEST Internet Glossary
http://www.ResponsibleKids.net/glossary.htm