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Should You Be Monitoring Your Child's Internet Use?

Over the years, the age that the average child accesses the Internet [link to ‘Is there a best Internet plan’] has become younger and younger. Now, even babies are being handed tablets to use for playing games or watching TV [link to ‘Best Shows on Netflix’] and YouTube videos designed for children.

The debate over how much parents should be limiting or monitoring their child’s Internet use remains unsettled. Every parent and child is different. However, there are some tips and rules that tend to be widely endorsed by parents and experts.

Tips for monitoring your child’s internet use

The best way to monitor your child online changes as they get older. For example, more trust and privacy is expected as your child reaches their teenage years. Thus here are our tips, tailored to various age groups.

Age 0-6

  • Use programs like Net Nanny and in-built parental controls to shield your child from inappropriate material and to monitor the websites they visit
  • Where possible, sit with them while they are on a screen and talk to them about what they are seeing

Ages 6-9

  • Continue to use programs and in-built settings for online security and surveillance
  • Let your child know they can talk to you without being getting in trouble if something they see online makes them confused or uncomfortable

Ages 9-13

At this age, your child might start using the Internet for social media.

  • Have a thorough conversation with them about online bullying and respecting others online
  • Talk to them about privacy and the information they should (and should not be) sharing online

Ages 13-18

At this age, monitoring your child’s Internet use can become more complicated. Teenagers start to value their privacy more than before and they may be able to bypass security programs to access unrestricted browsing.

  • Make sure your child feels as though their privacy is respected
  • Have open and direct conversations with your child about issues such as pornography, ‘sexting’ and interacting with strangers online
  • Make sure your child understands what a ‘digital footprint’ is so they can make mature and educated decisions about what they put online

Outdated rules

Many of the rules that we used to enforce for our children online are now too simple for the intricate online world. The blanket rule of “don’t talk to strangers online” doesn’t work in a world where we want to use eBay or Facebook marketplace to cheaply and efficiently make purchases, for example.

“Don’t share personal information online” doesn’t work either when children want to use social media to connect with their friends.

Advice from experts

Instead, the best advice for ensuring your child is safe online is to encourage them to talk to you if they ever get into trouble. Internet crimes investigator Detective Richard Wistocki refers to this as a “golden ticket”. He stresses the importance letting your child know they won’t get in trouble if they confess to you about using the Internet inappropriately or having a problem online.

It’s also important to remember that your child’s life and happiness offline is integral to the risks they will face online. As Elza Dunkels explains, “the most common common denominator among victims [of sexual predators and harassment online] that have been studied… is having a troubled life away from the keyboard.” This problem is not one that can be solved by compiling lists. Instead, as Dunkels states, “that’s more of an adult responsibility to see to it that every child has the same chance to feel good about themselves.”

The Internet does not only represent a risk. It is also a wonderful way for your children to access new education platforms and sources of entertainment. If your family needs help getting connected on the right plan, the experts at Compare & Connect can find your perfect plan for free.

Sally Writes 23 Dec 2020