Do you ponder and fret about what web activities are appropriate for your middle school going child (6th to 8th standards)? What if they bumped into undesirable adult web sites while researching for a school project, whether your child should be on Facebook or not etc., We have some pointers here to guide you in helping your child in using the computers and the Internet effectively and safely.
But first it is important you review some basic guidelines about computers and the net for your children, if you have not already.
Where are they developmentally?
- Your children are now very influenced by their peers.
- They have become independent in their work and attitude.
- Children are becoming more conscious of their gender and bodies. In boys and girls secondary sex organs are developing and they are also getting curious about sex.
- In the later classes, they might be using computer software - word processing or presentation software for their school reports.
- Some will also be writing basic computer programs.
- This is a tricky stage. They are sandwiched between being young and their growing desire for freedom and exploration. You have to tread the fine balance between respecting their desire for freedom and keeping them safe - not being too lenient and not coming on too strong on their privacy and freedom. Tread with care.
- Children are now using the Internet very freely for school projects. Encourage them to visit appropriate sites. Check the sites yourself to know the content.
- Agree with time limits on web browsing and computer use with your kids and then stick to these. It is important that they also have time for friends, sports, extra-curricular activities and of course academics.
- By now many might ask for their own accounts for emails and instant messaging. Remember the minimum age for getting Yahoo! Email or Gmail accounts is 13. Yahoo! and Google allow younger children to have email accounts but with parental guidance. The decision really depends on your child and you. If you feel they are mature and responsible, then let them have one under your guidance. Perhaps for the first couple of years they can share an email account with you for practice. But restrict the time spent on these activities.
- The minimum age for video sharing sites like Youtube and Facebook is 13 and they are not ready to use these sites independently. Their time and energies are better used elsewhere. It is best that you wait until they are older. Many might be interested in watching videos on Youtube or gaming websites. Do not directly encourage these but if they are very interested, then ration out a few educational and clean and fun videos under your guidance.
- Of course, keeping the computer in a public area versus their bedroom helps you to monitor their use in a more open and discreet way rather than hovering over their shoulders.
- Encourage the children to take breaks. This way you can be better updated about their happenings and it is also healthier for them.
- Also, parental control software is a must - to block undesirable websites, allow certain websites, filter search and even set and monitor time limits. Some software will even create activity reports of their web usage. Windows Vista and Apple computers have parental controls built into them. Netnanny is a good example of parental control software that is available in India (in leading computer shops and some bookstores) and can be installed easily. You can set these controls remotely as well (for example allow access for a specific website) and the advantage is that even when you are not present, you will feel secure that your child is using the net safely. The best is instead of being the paranoid control-freak parent, you can let the parental control software do the work for you.
- Very soon, your children will be older, more independent and then college and you will not be able to keep a tab on them. So, above all encourage your child to be open and honest with you. Make them feel trusted and they will avoid hiding things from you and keep you better updated.