Photo By Nacho Facello

August 19, 2016

Cyber Bullying, Internet Usage

How to Set the Rules for the Family Computer

While many parents still find themselves fascinated and surprised by the incredible possibilities that computers have introduced into our daily lives, for kids growing up in the computer age, computers are a convenience easily taken granted. For some parents, this can lead to a bit of a conundrum: how do you find a way to teach your kids about safe computer usage and ensure that they are making smart decision when online if you feel like your kids know they are more at-home on the computer than you are?

Photo By Nacho Facello

Photo by Nacho Facello

When your kids get to the age where they want to be allowed to use the computer on their own time either for entertainment or school work, it’s worth taking the time to sit down and make some important decisions about how your household rules will govern family computer usage. Having a clear, consistent, and fair policy for all family members can help to prevent arguments in advance and can keep kids well-informed about exactly what they need to know about the potential dangers of the Internet and how they should conduct themselves to keep safe. While kids may roll their eyes at having to follow these kinds of rules, if they are ever presented with a situation in which they need to exercise their best judgment, it’s very likely that they will fall back on your advice and will be happy to have had it.

Things to Consider

Different parents will lean in different directions on certain issues. As a general guideline, parenting styles tend to fall somewhere on a spectrum with “extremely strict” and “extremely lax” as the opposite poles. While parents generally tend to have better results with a parenting style that is close to the middle of the spectrum, there are some areas where parents will lean in one direction or another on issues that they find non-negotiable. Knowing what kind of parent you tend to be and where your values tend to lie can help you come up with a consistent set of rules in advance

As you start to plan your family rules, there are a few questions you can consider that will help you identify how you want your household rules to work:

  • What is the age range of the household? And as additional questions, will each family member have their own age-appropriate rules? Or will the rules appropriate to the youngest be the rules for the family computer? Will older kids have different rules for their own personal devices?
  • Do your kids tend to be rule followers or rule breakers? Specialists agree that while kids benefit from having clear rules to follow at home, it’s important that kids don’t feel restricted or punished for no reason. For kids who are good about following the rules and haven’t given you any cause to doubt them, it will likely suffice to explain the dangers that you want to protect them from online. For rule-following kids, this will likely be enough explanation to lead them towards making smart decisions. For kids who have a harder time following the rules, decide in advance on an escalated series of punishments that you can levy out based on the severity of the infraction. Specialists recommend that punishments for breaking rules online should be consistent with punishments for other household rule violations.
  • What risks concern you particularly for your children? Before your kids get online, you should make sure that you have a good understanding of the real risks that kids may face online and the likelihood that they will face those dangers. Things you will want to research include recognizing predatory behavior, keeping kids from communicating with strangers, educating kids on the dangers of oversharing their lives on social media, recognizing the signs that a child may cyber-bullying someone or may be a victim him- or herself, and ways to prevent your kids from becoming too dependent on the computer for their everyday entertainment.
  • How involved in your child’s online life do you want to be? This can be a tough question for some parents. Of course, kids will need to be given opportunities to live up to your trust, but if something in particular concerns you about your child’s Internet habits, you will want a way to identify any potential problem before it progresses. One option that parents have found success with is in downloading a parental filtering software like Rated 4 Kids that allows you to choose the level of control and monitoring you would like to exercise over your family’s Internet usage habits from very light to heavily involved as you see fit.

For one reason or another, modern kids need to have access to a computer. Setting clear and fair rules in advance is a crucial step in preventing any problems with a child’s Internet usage before they can occur.