Common Sense Internet Rules for Kids (Adopted or Otherwise)
- When you decide to have a designated computer for your child, be very careful to classify the computer as the family computer, not your child’s computer. If your teen wants to be a password protected user to keep siblings from changing her settings, require that they share the password with you. You should use this computer a couple of times a week as a matter of course. You need to make certain upgrades are being installed and the spyware is working, and you need to have a feel for what your kids are doing online. Just knowing that you will be on the same computer may act as a brake before they click on “that” link.
- The family computer should be in a place where you walk by or see frequently. In other words, out in the open. The attitude for this rule is as important as the rule—the internet is a tool and we keep our tools out in the open. If the family computer is a lap top, establish a designated place or room for use.
- Do not allow your child or teen to have a computer in their room. Yes, you will be told that he is the ONLY kid in school that doesn’t have one in his room. No, that is not correct and besides, you don’t care. In our family we buy a child a computer when they graduate from high school. There is no computer in their room until then unless they buy their own. (One child wanted to buy his own, but we insisted that he wait until he was 17.)
- Be aware of devices like the iTouch or smart phones which allow for internet connection. Once your child has one of these devices, you have no control over what they do online. They are inevitable, but don’t buy the hype that 13 and 14 year olds MUST have them.
- Don’t hover, but be aware of what your kids are up to on the internet. Walk by periodically. Bring them a glass of juice or a bite of what you’re cooking to see if they think it needs more salt.
- Talk with your children about internet safety, privacy, and online reputation. If your child is computer savvy, have them do the research on suggested privacy settings, common mistakes that reveal identifying information, etc. and ask them to teach you. Stress that they should not share their passwords with anyone.
- Explain to your children that all information online can ultimately be seen by anyone-including teachers and parents. If they don’t want information to be seen by their Sunday school teacher or volleyball coach, they shouldn’t post it.
- Set limits on the amount of time per day your child can be on the computer. In our house, we have a limit on “screen time” in general, which includes sitting in front of any screen (TV, computer, etc.). Work with your child on deciding what time limit is reasonable. I suggest giving in a little on this to help get buy-in for the rule.
- Set limits on what times of day your child can be online. In my experience, late night browsing is problematic.
- Abide by the age limits on social networks. Facebook’s age limit is 13 and MySpace’s age limit is 14. Personally, I’m in favor of no one under 14 being on the social networks. If you know of a child that has a Facebook account, you can report them anonymously and have the account shut down. If your teen joins Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or some other social network, have them friend you. It helps if you approach this request in the matter of fact manner of that’s how things are done in your family, and it is necessary from a safety standpoint. Periodically check their wall or their posts, but don’t make comments. Try to be unobtrusive. Keep in mind that over sharing goes both ways. You will need to be aware that your kids will likely see any posts you or your friends make on your wall as well.
- For children, tweens, and younger teens, install some form of parental control software, such as Safe Eyes or Net Nanny. In my opinion this software is worthless for older teens. It is better to talk with your teens about why you don’t want them on certain sites, rather than trying to prevent them.
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