Children and the Internet: What Age Should They Start?

Thu, Mar 22, 2007, by D. Anthony Williams

Web Talk

A general guide for supervising and protecting our children when they are using the Internet.

When one thinks about the content of some of the sites on the Internet today, one may be of the opinion that the Internet as a whole should have age restrictions put on it before even allowing your child to get close to your computer. With all of its adult oriented sites, the dirty jokes, the pornographic pictures, one is sometimes at a loss when you want to enable your child to begin to learn basic computer skills or just basics in regards to surfing the children’s sites. This becomes a major concern when your young teenagers have computers in their rooms and are out of sight. What does one do to control the access to adult material when your child or teen wishes to “surf” the Internet.

Some would say that this is an age appropriate issue and that teens should be allowed to use their discretion. Others would say that a teen has no discretion and should not be unsupervised at all. What of the younger children? Your seven year old just wants to go to a Barbie site that her friend goes to. Do you need to stand over her shoulder in an effort to protect her from the mass stream of pornography that she may stumble upon by accident?

These concerns are valid but we are still left with the question of how to deal with them. One obvious way is to place the family computer in the family room so that anyone who uses it is in plain view of the rest of the household. As for the issue of young children they should never be allowed to be completely unsupervised in regards to surfing. When we realize that there are idiots who post bomb making recipes, and articles on how to make poison gas out of household chemicals, we slowly realize that porn is not our only concern. So what is the solution? Monitoring and making the Internet experience a shared one. This goes for the young teen too who expresses the need to have to Internet on the computer in his/her room to do research for school. Some may call this an invasion of privacy, but until you are sure that you older child is using the Internet in a constructive way, consider using a key logger to check what they are doing on a frequent basis. A key logger is an invisible program that has a password (known only to you of course) that monitors their searches and the actual keystrokes and programs ran on their computer. They are easy to install and can be downloaded readily from the Internet. You can install the key logger when the older child is at school and you can monitor the searches and programs in the same manner.

If you find that there are inappropriate searches and your young teen is abusing the trust that you have bestowed in them, remove the computer from the room and place it in the family room where they can be monitored in the correct manner. You may hear a myriad of complaints and “I won’t do it again” promises, but for your child’s sake do not be swayed. That “how to build a pipe bomb” site is just a click away.

The younger child will enjoy you helping them find games to play and puzzles to solve as you make time to sit with them while they do their first Internet searches. As an adult you can still have your own computer or notebook in the privacy of your bedroom, and what you choose to view as an adult remains up to you.

However, be responsible and protect your children even if they don’t like it. You bought the computer to keep your kids in the loop, not to keep yourself out!

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2 Comments For This Post
  1. Rob Campbell Says:

    There is a very good article on http://wondercafe.ca that deals with exactly the same issues and ironically, the parents there come to the opposite conclusions – read the discussions entitled ‘Good parents bad internet’ and you will see what i mean.

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