When I tell some people that my six year old has his own laptop, they look at me like I am crazy. What they don’t understand is that these days, even children starting out in kindergarten are exposed to computers and the Internet at school, and they are expected to be able to use them for a variety of reasons. For example, both of my boys were sent home with their own “Study Island” account usernames and passwords, set up by their teachers, along with instructions to access the site and use it regularly as a study aid. Even more, my boys’ teachers have their own web pages on the school’s web-based interface, where we can go to view class updates, assignment details, grades and more. Simply put, technology has made schooling a whole different ballgame than it was when I was young, and if my children don’t know how to use it to its full advantage, they will inevitably be at a great disadvantage.
So, back to my six-year old’s laptop: some people might think it’s a crazy idea, but I know that I am really just arming my child with the tools he needs to keep up in today’s techno-centric world. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have to be careful about what he is and isn’t making use of with his laptop. When it comes to the Internet, I make it a point to know exactly what my child is looking at, and so should you. Here are simple steps for how to monitor your child’s Internet use:
Location. It is a good idea to keep the family computer in a highly trafficked place in the home, to make it harder to sneak access to inappropriate sites. If your children have laptops or tablets, encourage them to make use of them in the family gathering areas.
Browsing history. You can easily check the browsing history to see where your children have been, and then have a frank discussion with them if you see anything that you deem off limits.
Internet monitoring software. There are a variety of Internet monitoring programs on the market that make it possible for you to track the sites your children are visiting, and even block types of sites or specific sites from their access. Just install the software, choose a password and set up your restrictions and, voila, you have complete control.
One of the best ways you can keep up with what your children are doing on the Internet (and in every other aspect of life) is to keep the communication lines open. Tell them what you expect, and encourage them to ask questions and share their experiences.
The Internet is nothing to be afraid of, even for parents of young children who are just learning about technology. Just take the proper precautions and you can rest assured that your little one is getting the education you intend, minus the risk.
About the Author: Deborah Grames is a computer specialist and a mother and is constantly looking to see what her kids are doing online. When she’s not monitoring their activities she can be found installing hard drive recovery software and making backups for local businesses.