It’s inevitable, but as they grow older, your son or daughter will want to have access to the home computer. In fact, more than likely they will ask for a computer of their own. Although the safest path would be to keep them off the computer and away from inappropriate sites, images, and people online, that’s not realistic in this day and age. Instead, sit down with your kids and set up computer guidelines they will understand and are expected to abide by without exception.
Below are some pointers for setting up those guidelines.
Manage Computer Access Based on Age
Most people would agree that a five-year-old child has no business on the Internet. They are much too young and there is far too much trouble they can get into online. However, there is still educational software you can use with small children.
Your teenager will have more freedom about what content he or she can access. Due to their age, they will also have a better understanding of computer security issues and why clicking on strange links or downloading from untrusted sources can cause a myriad of headaches for the family overall.
While you will need to sit with younger children as they use the computer, for teenagers you will need to reinforce the rules over computer usage and the consequences of disobeying those rules.
Set Firm Daily Usage Rules
When you allow your kids to use the computer, you should lay out the rules for daily usage. If you have more than one child in your household, you will need to set up a schedule that allows for fair use among all household members. Set a firm amount of time each child can use the computer. If need be, use a timer to enforce the times for logging on and off. If a child does not abide by the usage rules, let him or her know there will be penalties, such as reduced time on the computer—or even no time on the computer—for the following day.
Homework that requires the use of the computer should always take precedence over checking out websites merely for pleasure. Therefore, make it clear that all homework-related tasks will be handled first and foremost, with online leisure time relegated to later on in the evening, once everyone’s homework assignments have been completed.
Keep the Computer in a Common Area of the Home
Rather than allowing your children to have a computer in their room where they are out of your sight and their online activity is unmonitored, place the computer in a common area of the home, such as the family room.
You will probably hear whining and moaning about such a move, but it is difficult to make guidelines stick for your children if you aren’t able to keep an eye on what your kids are doing, and when. If a child is supposed to be working on a term paper instead of playing an online game, you can easily tell the difference if you’re sitting close by with a good view of the monitor. Kids will be acutely aware that their every online move can be easily surveyed when the computer is in a high-traffic family area.
Discuss Rules for Computer Safety and Security
Be sure to emphasize to your kids the numerous risks that are inherent in being on the Internet, including identity theft, cyber bullying, people misrepresenting themselves, and hackers/phishers looking for the next target.
In addition, let your kids know you will be checking their browsing history on a regular basis and setting parental controls for the browser. You might consider purchasing parental control software as well. Finally, assign a family email account that can be used by all family members when setting up accounts on websites, downloading programs such as Spotify, or entering sweepstakes or contests.
By setting up these guidelines, you can ensure your kids have a safer, more secure computer experience. Just as important, you will have peace of mind.
Contributor: Bev Sninchak is a veteran freelance writer with 16 years of experience producing content for both print and online publications. She writes about many internet-related subjects, from Spokeo removal to social media strategies. She lives with her husband, kids, and a menagerie of pets in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado.