How to monitor your child’s internet usage

We live in the age of information, and it’s no secret that the variety of technology that’s now a part of our daily lives has totally changed the way children grow up. You may remember how incredible it was when the Discman first came out, or what a game changer the first cellphones were. You may remember when America Online was sending those CDs of their email service out to everyone, in the infancy of home internet availability. Well, today’s kids don’t even remember a world before the internet. It’s utilized in school, advertised on their favorite television shows, and part of their homework nearly every night. But are there any negatives to a child hanging out online? As many news stories will attest, there certainly can be. The things our children are exposed to play a big role in crafting the people they become, and the internet is one giant, unlimited exposure portal. What they see, and how and when they see it is incredibly important, and it’s up to each one of us to take the lead. Here are a few reasons why you should monitor your child’s internet usage, and how you can go about it.

First of all, surfing the web is a pretty introverted enterprise. Social networks allow you to discover all this information about the people in our lives without once seeing them or picking up the phone. Our kids need real world interaction. They’re still learning how to relate to others, what proper manners are, and how to read people and engage them. All of this must be done socially, not on the web, so you’ll certainly want to insure that your kids spend more time interacting with their peers in the real world than they do online. Consider requiring that your children get their homework done and then play outside until the sun goes down, and then get an hour online towards the end of the day.

Secondly, the web is designed for people of all ages from all walks of life, with all educational backgrounds, but it doesn’t discern who is using it. Your kids could be clicking around to find a show they love or photos they want to see, and inadvertently come across something that’s over their head. Inappropriate material such as pornography is not always blocked or flagged, and can be triggered by an accidental search or misspelled keyword. But it isn’t only sexual material that you need to be aware of. Graphic images of war, poverty and crime are also readily available online, and can scare your children or cause difficult conversations you weren’t prepared to have. The easiest way to handle this is to create parental controls on your internet program, blocking specific sites or imagery. You can set them so that your kids can only get on certain websites, so they can access their favorite shows and games but nothing else, or set an age range to make sure adult sites are locked. If you don’t feel that’s enough, set a password on the computers, so your kids can’t access the web at all unless you are there.

Finally, too much time online can actually skew a child’s sense of reality. The internet allows you to be anonymous, at least as far as you know, and interact with people without creating a real relationship. There are plenty of stories of kids being taken advantage of by predators on social media sites. Keep tabs on the sites your children visit, and regularly take a look at their social media profiles. You may feel like you’re snooping, but you’re actually just insuring their safety. Compare broadband networks to find other parental controls and safety features you can use, and keep tabs on your child’s behavior. If you notice them spending all their time in their room or pulling away from people, it may be time to cut the cord. Keeping the computer in a shared room will also help avoid problems.

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