Photo by Keith Cooper

August 26, 2016

Cyber Bullying, Internet Usage

How to Respond When Kids Break the Internet Rules

Specialists recommend that as with any of the other privileges and responsibilities that you give your kids, your kids’ right to use the Internet in your home should be governed by sound and consistent rules. Most parents recognize that when kids go online, there are certain dangers they may expose themselves to. Whether it’s in talking to strangers online, oversharing their personal information, running into online bullying, viewing age-inappropriate materials, or simply affecting their health by spending too much time in front of screens, kids can run into all kinds of problematic situations if their Internet usage isn’t curtailed in some way.

Photo by Keith Cooper

Photo by Keith


Of course, even the best behaved kids will sometimes break the rules. Specialists recommend that when kids break household rules on using the computer and other devices, parents should respond with punishments that are similar in nature and severity to any other household infraction. For instance, doing something minorly bad online like slightly overstepping their allowed Internet time for the day might result in the same punishment as if he or she stayed out past curfew. But a more severe mistake like bullying another child online might result in the same punishment as if he or she had been caught bullying a child at school.

One of the most important things that specialists recommend parents to remember is to keep rules and punishments consistent, fair, and logical. If you’ve just found that your son or daughter has disobeyed your household Internet rules, here are some things you might do:

  • Carefully explain to the child why you have a rule of that nature in the first place. Even if you feel that you’ve explained the rule before, it may well be that the child has not really understood or has not understood the reality of the danger involved. While you don’t want to scare your child unnecessarily, you might consider showing him or her a real life example of a situation you are trying to avoid. For example, if you are upset that your child used the Internet to bully another child, you might show them one of the many online news pieces about kids and teens who have suffered severe mental problems after experiencing online bullying.
  • In addition to punishing the child in a traditional way like grounding or increasing chores, you can consider tightening your household Internet rules. Depending on the infraction, you can temporarily or permanently decrease the amount of time your child can spend on the Internet each day or the types of content they can view. Some parents choose to use parental filtering software like Rated 4 Kids that gives them the ability to block specific sites and sites that are similar, which can be a good way to keep kids off of social media or gaming sites as a punishment. Parents can also use such systems to limit a child’s access to the Internet or certain sites at certain times of the day. This way, you can actually turn off your child’s computer, phone, and tablet from 7pm to 10am, for example.
  • Consider whether your rules are realistic for your kids’ ages and needs. While different parents will want rules that reflect their expectations and values, specialists say that in all facets of life, kids need room to experiment and make mistakes. There are absolutely some mistakes that you don’t want them to have the space to make, (for example, communicating with someone dangerous online or accidentally viewing something illegal). For most kids, mistakes and infractions will be much smaller. If there’s a chance that your rules impinge on a child’s privacy or curiosity, you may want to consider loosening your rules within reason.
  • Have your kids explain themselves. No parent wants their child to try to make excuses for the reasons they knowingly broke the rules.  It can be a good exercise to have your kids connect increases in responsibility with reasons and rights. For example, one thing that some parents have found effective is to have kids present to their parents any new game that they’d like to play. This can help teach your kids responsibility and can also encourage them to choose games that have more educational value.These are likely easier to explain to parents.