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How can I communicate with my child about internet use?

Rather than focus on the details of which filtering software to use or not use, practice proven approaches to parenting that will nurture and grow your relationship with your child.

  • Be Proactive: Do your best to anticipate potential problems before they arise.
    • For example, if you read an article about teenagers making friends online and then meeting them offline, this would be a good issue to discuss with your children during one of your family discussions or dinners.
  • Adopt an Authoritative parenting style: Set firm and consistent rules and expectations for your child’s behavior, but do this in a kind and loving way, consulting with your child and listening carefully to his/her thoughts and ideas.
  • Authoritative parenting should be done using a model called TALK - Trust, Assess, Learn, and “K”communicate. 
    • Trust: Minimize the use of "sneaky" strategies for checking your child’s behavior. Do not institute technological filters that artificially limit your child’s options. Net Generation children are simply too technologically savvy and will find a way to work around these filters. Instead, discuss the types of materials that you would like to "filter" with your child and work together to provide solutions should he/she encounter filtered material.
    • Assess: Pay attention to exactly what technology your children are using. Practice "co-viewing" which includes spending time using technology with your children. Review your child's online games, text, IM, bulletins, blogs, photos, etc.
    • Trust: Minimize the use of "sneaky" strategies for checking your child's behavior. Do not institute technological filters that artificially limit your child's options. Net Generation children are simply too technologically savvy and will find a way to work around these filters. Instead, discuss the types of materials that you would like to "filter" with your child and work together to provide solutions should he/she encounter filtered material.
    • Learn: Participate in your children’s technology. Have them show you what websites they like and help you create your own MySpace or Facebook page. Then request to be their "friend" so you can visit their MySpace page by clicking their photo on your site. Don’t have them make a site for you. It is important for you to literally put your hands on the computer keys and mouse and see how easy it is to create a profile page. Play games on their Wii, listen to their iPod, send a text message, watch an online video, have a chat or IM conversation. Get a feel for what they are doing and perhaps identify problems that might occur.
    • "K"ommunicate: It may seem easy to say that you should talk with your children but you are well aware that that is not as simple as it sounds. Make time for at least two or three family dinners a week. Post the days on the refrigerator and keep to the schedule. Use the family dinner to talk and, more importantly, to listen. Do not try to cram every issue into a single dinner and do not use dinner as a way to tell your kids what they have done wrong. Instead, use it to get a sense of what they are doing both with and without technology.

Source: Dr. Larry Rosen "Parenting Your Net Generation Child or Adolescent"