IntroductionIf you are a parent, you know you would never let your young child run free on the streets of New York City or at the local mall for that matter.
Yet, easy access and computer savvy may be putting our children at risk on a daily basis, as simple curiosity may get them to places that are not age appropriate or safe for them to be.
If you allow young ones access to the Internet, there is the potential for exposure to a multitude of unseemly individuals with the worst of intentions.
So, in light of the fact that as our children grow, so does their curiosity and passion for techno-connection -- here are some useful suggestions to help create a balance between the real world and the virtual one.
Have one family computer and keep it in an area where the family gathers. Curiosity combined with secrecy and anonymity can potentially be a prescription for trouble.
It is easier for children (and a lot of adults for that matter) to self-regulate when there is accountability and the perception that they are being supervised.
"Don't talk to strangers"
Parents begin to teach their children at a very young age not to talk to strangers and to stick close to their parents when they are out and about. The perception is that because the computer is in the home, it's a safe place to be.
Talk to your children about the potential for danger and set limits about where they can and cannot go on line.
Check out where they have been so that you can help them know where they can go in the future. When you children come home from a play date or visit with a friend, two of the first questions you ask is, "Where did you go and what did you do?"
The same holds true for a visit online. Monitor where your children are going online. You can do this by simply clicking on the history button on your Internet browser. There is even software that can be purchased that can monitor Internet use.
If you allow your children to have access to social network sites, make it clear that you will be checking in on them from time to time. Some of the worst bullying occurs on these sites and while your son or daughter may be kind and caring, peer pressure can be overwhelming.
Finally, like everything else, find a balance between Internet use and real time personal interaction. The Internet is meant to enhance our lives and the relationships we cherish, not take the place of them.
It is important for children and adults to monitor the amount of time they spend "plugged in" and to know where and when it is appropriate to do so.
Dr. Laura Richter is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist who works with individuals, couples, and families. Her specialties include: surviving infidelity, improving communication, beginning again after divorce and effective co-parenting after divorce. She is also a trained mediator, qualified parenting coordinator and collaborative law mental health professional. For more information, please call or text us today at 561-715-6404 to schedule a consultation to see how we can help.