I am a single mother of a 13-year-old daughter who insisted that she needed a computer with Internet access for school. A friend of mind just happened to have an older computer that she was selling. I bought my daughter the computer and set it up in her room. Now I never see her. She’s always in her room on the Internet. I am not very knowledgeable about the Internet, but I have heard about some of the stuff that kids are accessing. Is there any way I can monitor what my daughter is looking at on the Internet without making her feel like I’m intruding on her privacy? Thanks.
Bonnie in Atlanta
Hi Bonnie, what an important question! Surfing the Internet is a popular pastime for kids today and many are starting much younger than your daughter. The Internet has opened up a whole world of knowledge and information for kids; unfortunately it is not all good information. You are right in being concerned, but there are things parents can do to keep their kids safe on the Internet.
One of the ways you as a parent can protect your child is by becoming knowledgeable about the Internet. Perhaps you can take an introductory computer course to learn about the Internet. Many communities offer these courses for a reasonable fee.
The following are some tips I found online at the University of Oklahoma Department of Public Safety’s website entitled “The Police Notebook” (http://www.ou.edu/oupd/kidsafe/start.htm).
1. Keep the computer in the family area of your home so you can see what your child is accessing on the Internet.
2. Regularly spend time with your child online to learn about his or her interests.
3. Teach your child how to get out of any site that makes them feel uncomfortable or scared. They can do this by logging off, pressing the back key, or telling a nearby adult what is going on.
4. If your child finds himself or herself on a questionable site don’t become angry and blame them. You want them to trust you and feel that they can come to you with this information. Besides, it’s very easy to get into areas that you don’t want to be in, as you will find out after taking an Internet course.
5. Explain to your child the differences between advertising items, educational material, and entertainment content by showing them examples of each.
6. If you are going to allow your child to purchase items online, establish guidelines and rules that they must abide by.
7. Communicate with your Internet Provider to inform them of what you as a parent, expect in regard to keeping your children safe.
In addition to the above tips, you can purchase an application titled “parental controls” that will block access to inappropriate material. Parental controls can track your child’s activity on the Internet for you to monitor at a later date. Boundaries can be set to allow only age appropriate content to be viewed. You can purchase parental controls through your Internet service provider, your web browser, or through retail outlets.
In addition to surfing the Internet, there are dangerous situations your child can get into by participating in online chat rooms and through email. It’s very important to teach your child not to give out personal information in any of these venues.
There is an abundance of information available to help keep kids safe at the following online sites:
SafeKids.com – http://www.safekids.com
The Children’s Partnership – http://www.childrenspartnership.org
Parry Aftab’s Family Guide Book – http://www.familyguidebook.com
Also, your local library is a good source for further information.
Hope this helps, Bonnie.
E-mail your questions to email@example.com. Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.