These days, more and more children are spending time on the computer. The internet can be great for your children for a number of reasons. It provides a limitless amount of information about anything right at their fingertips – they can research anything and everything without a trip to the local library. There are many educational and kid-friendly games out there as well that teach children skills while they are playing and having fun. It’s important to make sure that while your child is surfing the web or using their computer, tablet or smart phone, they are being smart themselves and they understand the risks.
Here are some basic computer rules families should live by to ensure positive online experiences for their children:
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. The best way to find out what your child is doing is to ask them. Talk to them about their online experiences, what they want to know. Surf the web with them, together, so they feel comfortable coming to you with questions they might have.
Limit how much time they spend on the computer. There is nothing a child would need to do that would require hours and hours of surfing the web. Set a time limit right from the start for how much time your child can spend on the computer for free activities. Add time as they grow if you choose, but always make it clear that there is a time limit for free time on the computer.
Check the computer yourself. It is important to make sure your child is doing the right thing. Check on the websites they are visiting and set privacy settings to ensure they cannot end up on websites they shouldn’t be on.
Keep the computer in a central location. Always have the family computer in an open, centralized area of the house so there isn’t a lot of time for children to be on it alone where you can’t see. As a parent, even if you aren’t staring over their shoulder, having it in an area near where you are makes it more difficult for children to stray to questionable sites.
Communicating online is something that children do more and more. There are additional safety tips that you can use, and instill in your child, when it comes to messaging.
Know who your child is talking to. Always ask who your child is talking to and make sure you know them yourself.
Teach them about privacy. Educate your children on the dangers of giving any personal information online.
Follow the rules of certain websites. There are age restrictions on websites for a reason. If your child is too young to be on face book, don’t allow them to create a page.
There is a plethora of information out there for children to read to help them understand the dangers of the internet.
http://www.commonsensemedia.org/videos/keeping-kids-safe-online This is a fantastic website for children, by children, about keeping themselves safe online. It has some great tips from children about things THEY can do to keep out of trouble on the internet. It’s for kids, so it’s in language they will understand and be able to identify with.
http://www.commonsense.org is a great website. It is “dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.” It gives great games, apps and websites for children for every age – and is a trustworthy source for parents who are looking to check out the validity of certain websites.
The Family Online Safety Institute has great online safety cards for parents, http://aplatformforgood.org/pages/online-safety-cards. These cards can be included in the gift wrapping for a new device (smart phone, tablet, etc.) and will help jump start the conversation about online safety expectations.
There are numerous websites for younger children, such as http://www.clubpenguin.com/membership/ that can allow children to chat, play and surf in a kid-friendly, trustworthy environment.
Nicole Chiello is the Director of The Children’s Workshop in Smithfield, RI. She recieved a BA in Elementary Education and Psychology from URI. Nicole has been with the team for four years. Before being a director, she was a school-age coordinator in Warwick, as well as a substitute for the Public Schools. Her favorite thing about working with children is the guarantee that every day is different!