- Published on Friday, 28 May 2010 13:07
Many parents ask this question and wonder: Should my child have a computer in his/her room? Is that safe? At what age? Will he/she be profiled, cyber-bullied or stalked?
While there may not be a "one size fits all" answer to this question, there are certainly some things to consider, that may assist you in making an informed decision. After asking around a bit and doing online research, I gathered the following data:
- Some parenting experts say to never place a computer in a child's room
- Some parenting experts say a bedroom computer is okay as long as porn filters are installed
- Numerous experts say that computers should be centralized - in a living room, kitchen area, etc
- Other parenting experts say you should give your child a computer, and not filter their useage (i.e. allow them to figure things out on their own)
- Other parenting experts say that children should not have computers at all (outdoor time is better, etc)
Why am I writing about this, on an Early Childhood website? I believe that it's much better to be prepared, ahead of time, than to look back, in regret. All of us with young children can learn from those who came before us. Therefore, I'm sharing this information with you to keep you informed, thinking, contemplating and aware. Furthermore, there are early childhood websites targeting small children now, also. For instance, Nickelodeon's AddictingGames.com - where shower peeping and back-ally hacking are promoted to preschoolers.
What's a parent to do?
After asking Mary Kay Hoal, founder of Yoursphere.com and mother of five children, she replied:
Based on my experience, it depends on the child and your home situation.
I know many "experts" say: keep the computer in a room like the kitchen or family room area. In my household, that works for the younger kids, but isn't realistic the older kids get. The computer - a laptop - is at the kitchen table when my 9 or 6 year old use it.
My 11 year old needs more time away from his younger siblings, (to avoid fighting with them) so he's best left alone with the computer that is in the other room. (Not his bedroom).
In our house the family room/kitchen are always busy, loud, homework being done, maybe a TV on if in the evening. My husband and I talking. Me cooking. Too busy for the older kids that need to study and use computer for homework, etc.
So...in a "central room" really does not work in my house.
Now, I have one child that was, once, trouble from the get-go online. That child never ever got to have a computer in their room.
I have another older child that was never a problem related to their online activities. They both had the same rules. The computer(s) had the same software on them. One just chose to follow the family rules the other didn't.
The child that followed the rules - including knowing that browser history couldn't be erased; that I could do a 'quick check' at any point - got to have a computer in their room at 16. They also paid for the computer themselves with allowance money. My other child at the same age did not get that liberty.
I don't believe our kids seek trouble online. From what I've seen, and heard from talking to parents, it often just comes to them. With no parent involvement, awareness, or clear rules and guidelines, things can spiral out of control.
- Mary Kay
Mary Kay brings up several good points:
- Not everyone has a large or open 'central area' in which to place a computer
- Some families have large age gaps between children and their computer useage will differ greatly
- Not every child can be automatically trusted on a computer
- Not every child should be automatically dis-trusted on a computer
- Darn it - children have a mind of their own and some kids will listen...others will not
So who's being targeted online, anyway?
According to a recent Michele Borba article, new research indicates (as you may have already guessed) that predators typically target specific children. From her article we read:
The most vulnerable youth to online predators are those with lower-self esteem. It appears that predators specifically prey on kids who lack strong identity or have a weaker social network of their own. (Which is what research also shows about offline bullying).
My Personal Opinion:
My eldest son is now 11 years old. He set up a Facebook account weeks ago, against my wishes (at his father's house). "All my friends have one!" My husband and I demanded to know his pass-code. Reluctantly, he told us. I went online and quickly saw that he had become engaged in a cyber-bullying incident with several other classmates. All within days of creating his account! I shut down his account that moment and wrote an angry note to Facebook about the fact that my son wasn't even 13 years old - he had simply put in a false birthdate and because Facebook has no checking system, his account was set up, no questions asked.
I also left a nice long note on the Facebook stream for all of those children to see - all about cyber-bullying and how laws are now being set to prosecute such behavior - that kindness should prevail and hateful talk should never be acceptable...on or off the computer.
For this reason (and others) we have our son's computer in a central location. Five feet from my computer, in fact, on our kitchen counter. It's annoying and of course, a space suck. However, I'm not going to allow a computer in his bedroom and we don't have any other central location to consider. So - in the kitchen it will remain.
If I felt as though I didn't need to worry about him, however, I might consider moving the computer at a later date. Being a believer in the idea that children need parents to monitor their behavior in order to render effective members of society, I would use a filtering system.
According to one study several years ago, upwards of 60% of online websites were considered pornographic. A 2007 article, however, stated that 12% of websites are porn-related and that 89% of porn is created in the USA. Whatever the current statistics, we know that it's a multi-billion dollar industry and sucks in many a decent mind, kids included. Therefore, my husband and I would most assuredly install filters on our son's computer in order to protect him from the damaging materials. I have direct experience with a past relationship and porn addiction so you may assume I speak from experience here - I know the damage that can be done to a life and mind. No way would I deliver my own child into the hands of people wanting to harm him and remove his childhood and mental well-being.
After Googling about online filters, here is what I found:
- Internet Filter Software Reviews (10)
- Parental Control Software
- Net Nanny
- Microsoft Online Safety
- We-blocker safe families software (free)
- Total Net Guard (faith-based option)
Whatever you decide is best for your family and lifestyle, remember the wise words of Wendy, founder of Kidlutions (from a recent interview on the Learning and Laughter with Louise toginet radio program:
Our brains are not fully formed until we're 25 years old. So kids are impulsive and kids make decisions based on peer pressure and based on group think behaviors. They need the guidance of a strong steady parent who's very present in their lives - emotionally and physically. Having worked with a number of teenagers who have been in quite a bit of trouble with the law (and adults), and children who have been in foster places and in juvenile detention homes...every single one of them has said to me, "Why didn't my parents care enough to ask me? To give me a consequence? To have me do the right thing? To expect more from me?" There are plenty of people in this world to be friends with your children. Your child needs a parent. Plain and simple. It's a huge job - it's a huge task. We aren't there to be best friends. It's our job to make sure our kids are safe and secure and that they are well. That they grow up to be a good adult. And it's okay for them not to like us. That's what we signed on for when we signed up for the job of parent.
- Self esteem products: Bing Note
- Self Esteem Tips: Mommy Perks
- Self Esteem Printouts: Bing Note (free)
- 20 Suicide Prevention Tips: Mommy Perks
- 20 parenting Tips: Mommy Perks
- 20 Bully Prevention Tips: Mommy Perks
ABOUT the Author:
Shara Lawrence-Weiss is the owner of Mommy Perks, Personal Child Stories, Early Childhood News and Resources and Kids Perks (coming soon). She has a background in education, early childhood, nanny work, published freelance, marketing and special needs.