The Internet has become integrated into daily living, making accessible information that was previously difficult or costly to obtain. From researching educational topics to playing online educational games, looking up reference material, researching how-to aids, finding useful resources, watching video clips, etc., the Internet has increased and enhanced learning opportunities, as well as provided a means to stay in touch with family and friends.
It would be unreasonable to ignore the ways that the Internet can be used for good. At the same time, there is not only great potential for it to be an avenue for ungodly influences, but there are also many practical security and safety issues to consider.
Your children are inexperienced, which is why they need your guidance to instill in them the right set of values to apply to their online times. This set of values that you instill in your children, rather than specific rules, will in the long run provide them with the greatest safety measure. One day you will not be there peering over their shoulders checking what they do; before long they will be teenagers and adults and will have to make the choices to do right and to steer away from danger based on personal conviction rather than fear of punishment. You have the privilege of shaping your children’s values and morals; do so wisely.
Socially, the Web can become a world of its own, representing a wealth of possibility and discovery for children and young people who engage in online activities. Shy children who have a hard time expressing themselves in face-to-face communications may have little difficulty doing so online—or to the contrary the Internet can encourage such shyness, insecurity, and low self-esteem, because it does not provide opportunities for them to grow in their verbal communication and presentation.
There is also the danger of Internet addiction, and the concerns of providing your child with a balanced array of experiences and activities to ensure healthy development in all areas of his or her life. It’s important to realize that children need time experiencing life away from the computer and Internet, where they can partake in practical life skills, develop social skills, enjoy outdoor recreation, etc. The computer and the Internet should never replace the fundamentals of a child’s upbringing that provide experience and perspective on life and living it to the full.
How Much Time?
Aside from safety issues and practical concerns, another area of your child’s Internet usage that you, as parents, should monitor and evaluate is the amount of time that your child spends at a computer. Inordinate or unnecessary exposure to computers at a young age can create an appetite for continual visual stimulation, which can hinder your child’s desire for a physically active lifestyle or your child’s social development.
Providing your child with a wide range of real-life activities is in itself one of the most important safeguarding strategies to not only keeping the aforementioned Internet concerns and dangers at bay, but ensuring your child’s healthy development in all areas of his or her life.
Childhood is meant to be an active time, filled with fun, activities, adventure, challenges, and thrills—not the lethargy-inducing pull of computers.
When children are young, they are forming their mindsets. They are deciding how they will approach life, what they’ll do with their lives, and spending hours in front of a computer is really sad.
You have to instill that desire for an active lifestyle by doing activities that keep them stirred up. They’ll balk and want to sit down at the computer, but it’s up to you to find ways to energize their lives, to make them want to go outside and have fun rather than sit in the house all day and waste away.
One of the best methods for controlling what your child is exposed to on the Internet is old-fashioned parental guidance. You know what is appropriate for your child to view and what isn’t.
There are a variety of programs available to help parents control the access their children have to the Internet. This type of software is designed for a range of actions, from filtering out sites that are not child friendly to restricting the amount of time that a child spends online. Any filtering systems that you consider for your situation should be in addition to your supervision and the guidelines concerning length of time, purpose of use, etc., that you’ve instituted with your child.
The Internet can be a wonderful education and reference tool, and installing software that will filter out inappropriate material will enhance the quality of your Internet searches and online time.
If you do decide to install filtering software on the computer your children have access to, you could use this opportunity to teach your child why you are doing so.
A danger lies in thinking that after installing such software that your preteens are now safe and no longer need supervision and instruction from you. The software will only do a measure of safeguarding. So while the filtering software will alleviate some concerns, as the parent it is your ultimate responsibility to ensure that your children learn how to protect themselves from inappropriate material later on in life when they may not have filtering or other forms of external constraints. At such times they will also need to have a good understanding and personal conviction as to why inappropriate sites should be avoided.