Many parents think that limiting kids’ online activities is easy – it just involves watching over what they do and restricting the time they’re allowed to spend on the computer. But they reckon without kids’ increasingly savvy computer skills, and they also fail to consider what happens when those kids visit their friends, get computer access at school, or visit libraries and cybercafÃ©s.
In any situation involving technology, kids are always one step ahead of their parents. Where they’re behind – and the reason we worry about them – is in their ability to deal with potentially dangerous situations online. This is why, rather than simply banning them from using the computer in certain ways, it’s important to work with them to ensure they stay safe.
Anything which is forbidden becomes more attractive. Most of us experience that as adults, so imagine what it’s like for children, who are far more compulsive by nature. When we simply tell our kids not to do something, with no explanation, we’re asking for trouble. We’re also setting ourselves up as the enemy and making it less likely that they’ll talk to us when they run into situations they can’t handle.
Limiting kids’ online activities is most effectively done by involving the kids themselves. Talk to your children about why you worry about them doing certain things online. This doesn’t mean you need to be explicit about the potential dangers posed by adults, but you can warn them that there are bad people out there who, dangerously, might seem okay at first. Enlist their help in working out ways they can avoid such people.
Show them that you respect their wishes by making them a part of the process of working out what’s safe and what isn’t. Assure them that if they’re responsible and if they prove that they can behave in a safe, sensible manner, you’ll expand the online access they’re allowed in future. Encourage them to impress you by being responsible, rather than turning them into rebels.