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Parental Guide to Internet Usage

by Rob Dozier
FMWRC Webmaster

The computer is a powerful tool...for writing, communicating, learning and creating. With any good tool there are many ways to misuse it. In this page, we will offer several ideas to help the parent supervise their child on the computer; to make it both a positive and productive experience.

There are various Internet filtering and monitoring software packages available for home use. These packages are designed to filter some specific violent or sexual content, and limit an Internet browser from displaying the offending content. According to reviews some work better and some are less effective. It is the opinion of some that no filter software alone is sufficient in guiding young people on appropriate internet usage, and stress parent oversight and intervention is critical.

Most parents should remain aware of the material their children are accessing while on-line. A parent can do this in several easy steps which require no computer expertise:

Five Easy Steps to Parental Guidance

  1. Observe - your child on the computer. Have the computer in the family room with the computer monitor (screen) facing outward, not in their bedroom behind a closed door. Sit next to your child and watch television or read while they are using the computer.
  2. Ask - your child what they are working on. This tells them you are interested in them, and keeps them in communication with you the parent. Avoid phrases like "what are you doing on that stupid computer" and you won't get answers like "nothin'." Computers may be an integral part of a child's life. If you demean the computer you will demean them.
  3. Have them Show - you their project. Observe them using a word processor, or a game, or the internet, or a photo editor. This one-on-one session should not be judgemental. Let them get excited about what they are doing and you can get excited too, even if you are not interested in computers yourself.
  4. Have them Teach - you about computer use. This is a great opportunity to show them that you are willing to learn something from them. You become the student instead of the nagging parent. A question like "how do I write a letter using a computer" or "how do I send an e.mail" would really build your child's self esteem because you believe in them. You can also find out what they know.
  5. Be Aware - of the world on computing and the internet. You do not need to be an computer expert or a "geek" to properly parent a child. But you can be aware of how your child uses the computer at school, at their friend's home, and at your home. Be aware of the dangers as well. Take the time to learn more about the subject. Your child is!

The information explosion today has cornered the imagination of a new generation, and enlightened the world.

Today's Baby Boomers were raised in an era where if you knew what your child was reading, and where they were going, you could control what and whom they saw. Today, this is no longer sufficient to protect our children. Computers and the Internet have broadened everyone's horizons.

Not everyone is threatened by what is available. With movies and a rating system, many parents allow their children to view movies rated above their child's age, as long as they can counsel them on the meaning of the images in the more adult scenes. The best person to know the child's limitations is the parent.

In an Internet world and with CD ROM technology and some gaming sources, the opportunity is ever increasing for the child to observe and even interact in ways previously impossible. Images, chat and e-mail are challenges to all parents, even those with limited computer experience.

If you ask your child "what are you doing on the computer" you may or may not get a complete or accurate answer. Children test parental authority and supervision at every turn - it's part of growing up.

Verify What Your Child Says About Their Use of the Computer



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