While children need a certain amount of privacy, they also need parental involvement and supervision in their Internet lives. The same general parenting skills that apply to the “real world” also apply while online. If you as a parent have cause for concern about your son or daughter’s online activities, you must reach out to them. Also, keep track of access that your son or daughter has online service in your area. Having open communication with your child and a clear assessment of their computer resources will help alert you to any potential problems that may occur with their Internet use.
If a child tells you about an upsetting message, person, or web site encountered, don’t blame the child but help him or her avoid problems in the future. Remember how a parent responds will determine whether children will confide in mom or dad the next time they encounter a problem and how they learn to deal with problems on their own.
Beyond these basics, there are some specific things that parents should know about the Internet. Parents should know that chat areas, newsgroups, and web sites have material that is hateful, violent, sexual, or contains other types of material that parents might consider to be inappropriate for their children. Some technological solutions help monitor a child’s online use but these are not full proof. Also, a computer-savvy child desperately wanting access to such sites can easily learn to dismantle the software.
In addition there are ways to filter or control what children can see and do online. One type of filter, called a “spam” filter limits unsolicited email including mail promoting sexually explicit material. Some Internet Service Provides such as MayBerry.com or Integrity.com include filters as part of their service but, if not, there is software parents can purchase that will attempt to limit the type of mail that gets through.
While technological-child-protection tools are worth exploring, they are not a panacea. No program is perfect. There is always the possibility that something inappropriate could “slip through” or something that is appropriate will be blocked. Finally, filtering programs do not necessarily protect children from all dangerous activities. For example some do not control instant messaging or social networks like MySpace which put a child in instant communications with potential online predators. Predators are masters of manipulation. Unexplained and sudden changes in your child's mood or behavior may be a sign they are being manipulated in ways they are not comfortable with but are reluctant to talk about. According to Protectkids.com, there are several ways that parents can reduce the risks of their children meeting a predator online.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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