The Internet is a fascinating, educational, horrifying and dangerous place. This presents many challenges for parents. We want to make sure our kids get every opportunity they can and that they’re exposed to the joys of the modern connected life. But, we also want to keep them safe and secure.
That means smart parents can’t just keep their kids from the Internet. Instead, you have to allow them to use it with imposed rules.
Here are five rules every smart parent should enforce:
- Set a daily time limit. The longer the time spent roaming the many different portals of the web, the more likely a child will end up somewhere they shouldn’t be. Give your child enough time to check emails, respond, peruse Facebook, and call it a day. Thirty minutes to an hour – tops – should be plenty of time. The only reason to extend Internet use would be for school research projects, in which case, you should check in often to ensure that indeed is what your kid is supposed to be doing.
- Keep the computer in a communal space without a door. These days, kids have smartphones, tablets and laptops before they graduate elementary school; however there is no need for children to be connected 24/7. Cell phones without Internet connectivity should be plenty, and if they must have a laptop, keep it in a locked drawer or another secure place and let them use it during their daily allotted Internet time. If your child does not have access to these devices, then make sure your home computer is in a place where you can walk by and casually check on them.
- Do not allow downloads/updates without checking them out first. It seems that every move you make online requires a software update or a new program download. Make sure your child knows to check with you first before clicking “OK” as these can sometimes be ways for criminals to secretly install spyware on your computer that enables them to record key strokes and important information.
- Do not allow online shopping without your supervision. Children probably don’t have the means to make an online purchase, but that does not mean that they cannot give away valuable information by simply trying to shop. Many sites ask you to sign up for accounts or register before shopping. If your child needs something enough to shop for it on the Internet, make sure the item, the shopping site and the payment form have been pre-approved by you before your child starts browsing. Make sure your credit cards are out of reach at all times as well. If your child has seen you make a purchase, they might take things into their own hands without permission, putting both your and their identities at risk.
- Make sure your child keeps his personal information personal. Explain to him that there is no need to ever give his full name, phone number or address to anyone or any site. Let them know that if they are prompted to do so, to alert you immediately.
We all want to trust that our children will make the right decisions when it comes to Internet safety, but there is no guarantee that issues won’t arise. In order to be smart, start with the stricter rules and give more privileges with age and demonstrated maturity. Set expectations early and often to avoid miscommunication.