Parents should consider their child’s maturity and vulnerability when making computer usage rules. Here are some age-based guidelines.
Ages 2 to 3 Years
• Computers should always be placed in the family rooms of the house, not in children’s bedrooms. This applies to all age groups.
• Put your child on your lap as you “play” together on the computer.
• Look for books and video programs that show children and families using computers together.
Ages 4 to 7 years
• Spend as much time as you can with your children as they use the computer. Allow children to visit only child-friendly Web sites.
• Show children tangible results of their work on the computer, such as printouts.
• Share an e-mail address with your child, so you can oversee and discuss correspondence, like notes to family members.
• Consider using parental controls like child-safe browsers, filtering or monitoring.
Ages 8 to 11 Years
• Set clear rules for online usage and outline the consequences of breaking them. Make it clear that these rules also apply if they are using a computer in another home.
• Educate your child on the potential dangers of the Internet, and teach them never to give out personal information or use descriptive screen names.
• Chat room, personal e-mail and IM privileges should not be taken for granted. Decide when, and if, your child should use these forms of communication. These forms of communication are not necessary for social acceptance. Make sure your child fully understands cyber-etiquette and let them know misbehavior online counts.
• Teach them to evaluate information they find online. Help them to determine if the information is accurate, misleading or just propaganda.
• Teach children to tell you if they encounter anything scary or unusual online.
Ages 12 to 14 Years
• Because children of this age are more likely to explore on their own, maintain clear rules, limits and periodic check-ins.
• Learn exactly what your children do online. Stay involved.
• Teach your children not to download or copy anything without your approval.
• Set time limits for Internet use and encourage your child to pursue a well-balanced set of activities.
• Don’t play the blame game. Be open to hearing about problems they encounter. Foster open discussion. Respect your child’s concerns or frustrations over your involvement in their surfing activities.
• Balance your concerns about inappropriate material on the Internet by acknowledging that the Internet can be an informative and educational tool.
Source: Adapted from NetSafeKids.