During the school year, computer use is kept at a minimum for my kids (me? That’s another story!). My kids are at school for 7 1/2 hours a day, have homework and chores to do once they get home, and participate in scouts and other activities in the evenings. We stay busy. But the situation changes quite a bit once summer hits (one more week of classes for us!). All of the sudden they have several more free hours every day. I encourage them to be active outside, but sometimes, let’s face it, it is simply too hot to stay outside for an extended period of time. Being inside the house for hours can get boring, I’ll admit. My kids often turn to the computer and the DVD player to be entertained. At the beginning of every summer, I try to set some rules for TV and internet use. If I didn’t, my kids would be asking all day, every day to play on my computer or iTouch or to watch a movie.
I did a little bit of research to find out what was “normal” for children’s internet use. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation‘s research, “8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking’ (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes (10:45) worth of media content into those 7½ hours.” Wowzers!
I came up with some tips that I thought were handy for setting limits and making decisions about internet use. What points would you add?
- Set reasonable limits and stick to them. If necessary, set a timer. Beep! Time’s up! “Computer time” in our house includes other electronic games–on the ipod, phone, or otherwise.
- Permission first! My kids know that they can only go online if they have gotten my specific permission first.
- Bookmark a selection of pre-approved websites and let your children select from them when online.
- Be present whenever your children need to search the internet. Even an innocent search for a homework assignment can land your child on an inappropriate site. Help them know how to “read” safe results, and how to spot bad ones. Better yet, BE THERE!
- Install filters and use parental controls.
- Regularly talk about the “rules” of being online, including not sharing personal information–name, location, passwords, etc.
As negative as the internet can be for kids sometimes, it can also be a wonderful resource. There are many wonderful websites out there for kids of all ages. The key is balance. As I mentioned last month, I was recently asked to be a Yoursphere test drive mom. Yoursphere has been one of those websites that I feel completely comfortable letting my kids use. And even better, Yoursphere.com is free to join and use, and is exclusively for children under 18.
Speaking of Yoursphere, I have exciting news! Anyone who uses my referral code (YSMC-0027) to register on Yoursphere.com will be entered into a weekly drawing to win a $50 gift card. In other words, you’ve got nothing to lose and $50 to gain!
Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in the Yoursphere Test Drive program by Mom Central on behalf of Yoursphere. I received a free lifetime Gold membership on Yoursphere.com, Yoursphere t-shirts, and a $50 American Express gift card to facilitate my review.
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