In today’s 24/7 Internet connected world we are able to spend literally our entire lives online, getting all of the entertainment, news and other information that we need without much effort at all. From smart phones to laptops, tablets to PCs, there are literally thousands of channels of communication open at all times, and that means that they’re open to your children as well.
This has led to quite a bit of parental anxiety, to say the least. Not only do parents have to worry about what their children are watching on TV these days, they also have to worry about the literal fountain of information (good and bad) that’s available on the Internet. The question of what your child is viewing, who they are communicating with and what types of information that they have access to is definitely something that should concern every parent.
Most communication carriers have created technology to address the issue of online parental control. They provide programs and devices that give parents control over which devices their children have access to and what type of programming that they can view. The problem is finding the most effective product or service to use from amongst all of the service providers, parental control options, technologies and so forth.
It’s easy enough to find out where your child has been spending their online time by going into your computer and taking a look at the ‘history’ of their surfing. Of course there are methods to erase or delete this history and, if your child has already figured that out, this may be a dead-end. On the other hand, there are programs that you can install on your computer that they won’t know about and will record all of the websites and other online places that they visited, allowing you to see them at a time when your children are not around.
Another problem with many older parents is that they don’t have the kind of experience surfing the Internet that their tech savvy children have but, the truth is, there’s no need to be a computer whiz in order to talk to your children about accessing online information that you don’t think is appropriate
One of the first things that you need to do is sit down with your children and let them know exactly what you find acceptable and what websites that they are allowed to view. Opening a dialogue with your child or children is vital to convincing them that you care and also that you mean business.
One thing that you should definitely stress to your children (with caring and concern rather than anger) is that they should never, ever give out any identifying information about who they are, who their family members are and even who their friends are. This of course would include their name, their home address, any telephone number that they have, where their parents work, any passwords that they have, their email address or addresses, Social Security numbers and of course credit card numbers as well.
If you’re keen on making sure that your child isn’t accessing websites that you deem inappropriate (and there are literally millions of them) you may wish to set up your computer in a central location in your home like the dining room or living room so that, when your children are using the computer to surf the Internet, they can be supervised.
Something else that you can do is draw up an agreement between you and your children that sets the rules of where they can surf, during what hours and what sites are off-limits. While you’re doing this, you should also advise them that if they are ever harassed, bullied or asked questions that make them uncomfortable in any way, they should immediately talk to you or another supervising adult and let them know what’s going on.
At the end of the day the fact is that every family is unique. What makes one parent very uncomfortable may not even register with another and not all of the suggestions that we wrote above may apply to your family and your situation. The list above was not intended to be a complete list of available options but instead to serve as a starting point. You may never be able to completely control what your children watch when their online but, if you let them know that you love them and are just looking out for them, you’ll find that it’s not as difficult as you thought.