It is natural for kids to be excited about technology, but as a parent, it’s important to never forget about safety. It’s worthwhile to sit down as a family and have an internet safety plan. Bill Schuette, Michigan’s attorney general, suggested making a safety contract with your child where he or she agrees to terms about use of the internet. It may sound like common sense, but nothing can be assumed.
Make sure your child knows not to post personal information. If your child is on social media, in a chatroom or receives a message that makes them feel uneasy, instruct them to come to you or a trusted adult. Parents may not have experience with cyber-bullying, but it does exist, so keep lines of communication open between you and your child and do your best to be calm, helpful and not to overreact if he shares information with you.
Know who is online
If your child networks with others with similar interests, make sure that they have your permission before meeting a stranger. Ensure that they are respectful to others and make a plan for filtering or monitoring software so you have appropriate parental controls as your child uses the internet. Your child should not open e-mails or files from strangers including music or movies. “The increasing level of concern about internet safety and sexting, that are now ranked even higher than smoking as major childhood health issues, really dominates the story this year,” said Dr. Matthew Davis, professor of pediatrics and internal medicine in the child health evaluation and research unit at the University of Michigan Medical School.
Living Life Counseling in Ann Arbor suggests keeping the computer in an open area in your home where you can observe internet activity. Talk to your child about what they do online and make sure that they know not to believe everything they read, especially when it comes to health information. Pediatricians agree that too much screen time can be detrimental to your child’s health, so you want to set a reasonable time frame for how long is acceptable to be on the internet. After your child has used the internet for that many minutes, perhaps it is time to do something as a family.
The University of Michigan Health System reinforces that, while there are many positives, the internet still carries risks and your child may come in contact with inappropriate content such as pornography, hate speech and gambling. They caution parents to watch for signs that a child is getting into trouble, such as suddenly turning the computer off when you walk into the room; spending long hours online especially at night; receiving calls from people you do not know; withdrawing from family life and being reluctant to discuss internet activities; or finding pornography on the computer. Remember that you can have fun with your child and even find some favorite websites to bookmark as a family, just address internet safety at the onset.
For more information about internet safety,
visit Living Life Counseling at livinglifecounseling.com.