Parenting in the Internet Era

Steps you should take to protect your children.

Parenting. Webster defines it as “taking care of someone in a manner of a parent,” but what does that really mean? What is proper parenting and how can parents juggle their daily tasks to take care of their children in today’s lifestyle? If it is true that we learn parenting behavior from our parents, then we need a crash course on how to apply the teachings of 30 years ago into today’s fast-pace lifestyle.

Our society has pushed us to expect instant gratification; we have brainwashed ourselves into expecting things quickly and often effortlessly. The convenience of 24/7 gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and supermarkets has set a pattern in our behavior and expectancy.

Unfortunately (and fortunately) this does not apply when it comes to parenting, as proper parenting takes time and effort. It requires repetition and consistency, and it also requires a clear line of communication between parents and children. The old cliché that you don’t need to spend quantity time but just quality time is misleading. You need to spend quality time in quantity. This is even more relevant in today’s Internet era. How much time do you have your child’s full attention?

How many electronic devices do your children have access to each day? From the time they awake and leave for school, until they are back at home and in bed, they have probably had access to an iPod, cell phone or computer, all of which link directly or indirectly to the Internet.

The Internet is a great source of information for education and entertainment, but without proper parenting and supervision, it can be a dangerous place for your children. The Internet is a virtual reality store that is open 24/7. With a click of a button, your children can instantly gain access to inappropriate materials or worse, be in contact with strangers. Too often, we have seen the destruction of children exploited or abducted by people they have met on the Internet.

Does this mean the Internet is bad for our children? Absolutely NOT. Our children’s minds are like sponges— they absorb everything around them. It is our duty as parents to properly guide them to absorb things that are nutritiously healthy for their minds.

So how do we effectively protect our children when using the Internet?

  1. Set rules. Set rules as to when and where your children can surf online. Set rules as to whom your children can chat. Set rules as to when they can play games online. Set rules and stick with them.
  2. Don’t spy on your children. Supervise and oversee your children but don’t spy on their every move. Put yourself in their shoes; how can you effectively create trust if they know you are spying on them? Spying is a reactive approach; it does nothing to prevent your children from getting into trouble.
  3. Teach your children to treat their online friends as if they were real-life friends. That’s right. Not only do you have to do this, but you also have to TEACH your children to do this as well. In real life, children are fairly selective as to who they want as friends. Teach them to also be selective online.
  4. Teach your children to keep personal information private. Never reveal information such as name, school, phone number, sports, music, religion or social hang outs to a stranger. Teach your children to tell their friends not to share information with others. If they know someone who has a tendency to jab, don’t share your personal information with him.
  5. Never allow your children to have access to webcams (video chat) or microphones (audio chat). These are the most dangerous forms of communication on the Internet.
  6. Place the computer where it can be supervised. Never put a computer in a child’s room where they can be online without supervision. While we recognize that putting a computer in the middle of the living room is not always practical, we recommend that you place the computer where it can “easily” be supervised. Putting a computer in the center of the house without proper supervision is like putting it in the corner of the child’s bedroom.
  7. Get the right tool to help you supervise your children online, help enforce the rules you set up and help keep unauthorized people from reaching your children via the Internet. While this may seem obvious, make sure that every computer in your house is also protected. Parents can’t always be around to supervise and protect their children while they are online.

Education begins at home, and it should continue at home. Educated children can still be curious or mischievous and could get themselves into dangerous situations. Thus, prevention begins with your involvement. This is the only way to limit the risks your children face on the Internet.