In our previous post we discussed how to help our kids use the internet safely. In our last article of the series, we will talk about involving our kids in making the rules for the house computer and to remember that our families need time to download, I mean, connect without technology.
1. Decide on the rules with the kids:
I love this about my kid’s school. Most of the teachers make the rules for the classroom with the kid’s input. Then they post it in the front of the room. I try to do the same thing at home. I have always found that rules stick better when kids get involved.
Some parents feel so seriously about the dangers of the internet that they will just make the rules and enforce them. This can create some resentment. It can be better if you try the following:
“What do you think would be a fair amount of time for computer use?”
“How can we be sure that children in the house are following the rules about the internet?”
“What kind of rules do you think would be good for our family?”
“What is a good system for taking turns?”
“What kind of rules do you think we should have to keep everyone safe on the internet?”
There are rules that we feel as parents obviously feel are non-negotiable and that’s okay. Kids will be more likely to agree to those limits if we follow them up with “How will that work for you?” or “How do you feel about that?”
“I really feel strongly about the computer needing to be in a public place in the house. Will that work for all of you?”
“It is recommended that parents have passwords to all the electronic devices their kids have. That rule makes a lot of sense to me and needs to be followed. How do you feel about that?”
They still might complain. You can then enforce your rules with some empathy.
“I know, it sounds inconvenient to you and a little annoying. Those are rules that we need to have if you want to use the internet.”
These are some of the rules that we came up with in our house:
“No computers in bedrooms”
“Children who need the computer for homework get first dibs”
“Children can only use the kitchen computer”
We actually have a laptop in the kitchen. I did that so I can just put it away when I feel like we are having a hard time following the rules. No yelling, (okay sometimes yelling), just, “It looks like we all need a break from the computer. I will bring it back out a little later.”
Many of the parents I spoke to have told me that monitoring kids online can be a tough job.One Mom told me that she checks her kids facebook page daily. If she does not like what her other kids are posting on her daughters page, her rule is that her daughter has to unfriend them.
2.Get a Filter and an Internet Monitoring Advice :
Phillip Rosenthal, the Technology Addiction Consultant that I mentioned in an earlier post, says that having a filter on your computer is a must. He recommended K9 Web Protection which offers free downloads of their software. It is also helpful to have an Internet Monitoring Device. It is a product that documents every site that was visited on your computer and will alert you to any inappropriate online behavior. Some recommendations are: safetyweb.com, minormonitor.com or covenanteyes.com.
3. Disconnect to Connect:
Last but not least, our kids are watching our every move. I try to be cognizant of how much I am using my computer, and cellphone. I think I have it extra rough because I work from home and obviously am on the computer a lot!
I also try to make sure that we are communicating face to face which is getting harder with my older kids. Dinner is a device free event in our home. We don’t answer any phones (yes we still have a landline) at dinner unless it is the grandparents calling, as a sign of respect. Even if the kids are finished eating and are excused from the dinner table, no electronic devices are allowed to be used until the table is cleared. I also hear that some parents turn off the computer after a certain time at night and kids need to hand in their iphones/cellphones before bed.
I hope that all this information in these last 3 posts have been helpful. If it were entirely up to me, even though I love using the internet, I would limit its use as much as I can. The problem is that the more we, as parents say “no” the more enticing it becomes for kids. In these articles I have been trying to strike a balance between letting kids have a say in how they should use the internet, fostering a responsible attitude in kids and encouraging vigilance in us, the parents. Deciding on safe internet practices for your family can be tough. Good Luck.