Guiding your child's use of the Internet might feel like an intimidating job. The technology may be unfamiliar to you, and it may seem unclear how to make sure that your child doesn't encounter inappropriate material on the Internet.
But new technology doesn't mean that you have to toss all your parenting experience out the window. If you don't know how the Internet works, you don't have to spend lots of time with thick books to figure it out. You've probably got an expert right in your house. Just ask your child to show you how she uses the Internet.
Here are some tips on helping your kids use the Internet safely and wisely:
- Browsing the Internet with your child is a great way to nurture her interests. For example, if your child wants to be an astronaut when she grows up, spending some time at NASA's Web site can be an educational and inspirational experience.
- When it comes to making sure your kids use the Internet safely, use your common sense. The Internet operates a little differently from television or radio, but many of the same guidelines apply. For instance, just as you wouldn't want your child to watch television completely unsupervised, it's a good idea to keep the family computer in a spot where you can monitor its use.
- One important difference between the Internet and other media is that people can pretend to be anyone they want to when they're online. On the Internet, you are who you say you are. It's important to make sure that your child realizes that not everyone they meet online is who they say they are.
- Make sure your kids know that the information they find on the Internet may not be completely trustworthy. Try to find two separate sources for information, and keep in mind who the people are that are publishing the information, too. Web sites in the .edu (educational institutions — usually colleges) and .gov (government organizations) are generally solid sources.
- Also, it's essential that your child know that she should never reveal details about herself to strangers online. Kids should never give anyone they meet online information like their address, their school, or their phone number.
- You might consider creating a written agreement between yourself and your child that governs your family's use of the Internet. Your agreement should not only state the rules your child should follow when she's online, but also what you will do as a parent to support your child.
You shouldn't let technology intimidate you. Though there are lots of tiny complicated details about how the Internet works, the important thing is the way you use it. Knowing the right way to use the Internet doesn't require a Ph.D. in computer science; it just takes smart parenting.
For more help with guiding your child's use of the Internet, try one of these links:
- A great comprehensive site on Internet safety is Yahooligans! Guide for Parents. There's even a fun quiz for your kids to take that makes sure they know what to do in potentially unsafe situations.
- For ideas on what to include in an Internet use agreement between you and your child, take a look at Web Wise Kids.