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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Internet Issues


image from www.upenn.edu
I love the Internet. Because of the World Wide Web I know how to cook a perfect restaurant-style steak, tie a scarf like a fashionista, watch my favorite television shows, advance my writing career and keep in touch with my friends in the United Kingdom.

But I could also get hacked, catch a virus, have my identity stolen and look at unclothed men and women.

Which are all things I am uninterested in doing.

While I do what I can to keep the hackers and viruses at bay I can't always, try as I might, keep the pornographic images off my screen. (You know what I mean if you have ever searched "how to make a cherry pie".)

It's kinda scary to think those images are so freely available. Wherever I can access the Internet I have a completely straight connection to graphic and restricted images. Gone are the days when pornography was purchased in the dimly lit back corner of a store.

So then why would I ever, in a million years give my children unsupervised, unrestricted access to the Internet?

We have in mass given our children smart phones, video gaming systems, handheld devices and tablets while purchasing high speed Internet and granting them free surfing reign.


I am gravely concerned that we have given our children tools that they are not mature enough to handle. I'm not inferring that all children with Internet access are viewing inappropriate sites or searching for nude pictures but I am convinced giving them these devices without safety guards is no different than me sending my son out on the football field without proper equipment. He might not get hurt but he could. What kind of mother would I be if I let him play unprotected? Why would online gaming be any different?

There are precautions all parents of Internet accessing children should take. First, familiarize yourself with your child's device. It's not ok to not know how the machine works. Regardless as to whether or not you feel ill equipped to operate your child’s device you must learn basic maneuvering skills. You must.

It's important that you know how to access the parent controls on the device. All Apple products, portable games and internet accessible gaming systems all have a password protected setting that allows parents to limit what sites are accessible, what words can't be searched and/or a timing restriction.

If you're child is ever allowed to access the Internet without you in the same room (and let's face it the day of standing over your child's shoulder is gone now that everyone is busy, yes me too, looking at their own screen) it is also imperative that you activate the settings so that restricted material is blocked. Google, Bing, YouTube and every other major searching site has a setting option that allows you to choose the level of security for your tablets and home computers. Also available are blocking programs for purchase or download that notify you if someone in your home has searched unapproved material.

Consider knowing your child's password. It’s not a good idea to allow your child to have a phone or iPod that you can't access and remember to check the devices on occasion.

Also, discourage your children from sleeping with their phones. Other than the obvious ramifications of a poor night's sleep, it is not healthy for our children to be plugged in and online into the wee hours of the night. Don’t feel bad for controlling how much time your child is online. Texting, searching and watching videos into the wee hours of the morning is not a good idea. Ever. Confiscate the devices or disconnect your Internet if you must. (I hope your children aren't reading this for I am sure I am about to become the most hated parent in Twitter-verse).

Whether your child is a responsible and mature Internet user or young enough to still be na├»ve and innocent, parents must be anticipatory rather than reactionary when it comes to Internet access. The dangers of the world are and will remain out there but as long my kids live in my house I will be diligent in keeping their world wide web a little more local. Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so! That’s why!

Stephanie is a Parent Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District and a mother to five Internet savvy children. She blogs at www.stephaniesikorski.blogspot.com and is available for parent consultations. You can reach her at ssikorski@mr238.org.

This article appears as a part of a weekly parenting series at The Daily Review Atlas.

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