Most parents struggle to determine what and how much electronic use is appropriate, and how to monitor these online interactions. First, parents and caregivers need to set age-appropriate ground rules. This include determining to amount of time spent online each week, to what websites they can visit without permission. While each parent/caregiver will have their own expectation of what is considered a reasonable amount of time, the American Academy of Pediatric recommends limiting electronic screen time to no more than two hours a day.
Once you have established the ground rules for the electronic use, a discussion regarding safety should take place. When expectations are provided, children and teens will be more aware and likely to follow the rules in order to avoid negative or dangerous situations. Safety rules should include discussions about sharing personal information, the use of pictures, meeting up in real life, and cyberbullying. Addressing each of these domains regarding the dangers each one poses is significant to assisting children and teens in managing online electronic use. If any of these safety rules are broken, refer back to your ground rules and consequences that was set in place from initiation.
In order to increase appropriate monitoring, keeping the electronics, such as laptops, computers, and tablets in a common room is suggested. If a child or teen is in the presence of adults, it increases chances of following the safety and ground rules. In addition to monitoring the physical space, the use of supervision online is necessary as well. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to respectfully monitor online activity. Checking your child’s internet searches, history, and activity is appropriate to protect them from the potential of online dangers. Checking with your internet service provider to inquire about filtering and monitoring options are available. This will allow parents to track and monitor their children’s use, including time spent, what websites, and preventing inappropriate content from displaying.
In the event that your child or teen shares with you an issue that you may find to be of a concern, do not overreact. Praise your child for discussing this information with you, and discuss with them what you believe and know about the issue. This will help them learn and understand, while also increasing an open line of communication.
If parents are able to set clear and realistic expectations, while also monitoring and supervising online activities, then you are doing your duty in being responsible. While all children and teens are different and require different expectations and levels of responsibility, it is up to you as the caregiver to determine what is best, and if there is an issue or danger, it is also up to you to find out what is going on and manage it appropriately.
Websites with further information for addressing online safety: