The first thing you need to do to begin correcting the misuse of computer and the internet in your home is to check if your child is already addicted. The general truth is that all kids have trouble turning off the computer. Instant Messaging with friends seems so important, and computer games capture their attention and time — a lot of it. Virtual worlds can be equally engrossing. Thus your child may spend large amounts of time on the computer. If this happens try to find out if it’s just likeness he has developed for the computer programmes, or if he is already addicted. You need not ask him any questions to find out. You can simply withdraw the computer away from him and then observe his moods. How does he act when the computer is taken away from him? If he becomes withdrawn, moody, and uncommunicative – and the mood goes away when he’s back on his computer – it might be time to enforce some time limits. And you need to act fast because computer addiction can affect children’s ability to develop socially, emotionally, and even physically. While some kids may blossom in the freedom and anonymity of online lives, they also need the interpersonal skills that online life can’t provide.
Check the boxes below to check for signs of computer addiction and side effects:
- My child’s performance in school has dropped
- My child has developed the habit of hitting and pushing others
- My child has developed the habit of talking aggressively to adults
- My child now has frequent nightmares
- My child’s eating of unhealthy foods has increased
- My child now smokes, drinks, and uses drugs.
• Set time limits: Set family guidelines for appropriate content. Help children and teens choose Web sites and video games that are appropriate for their ages and for your family’s interests. Check the content ratings and parental advisories. Use these ratings to decide whether the Web site or game is suitable for your child. Set limits on the amount of time your child can spend online each day or week. Use a timer or an alarm clock to limit your child’s total screen time. Such as time watching TV and videotapes, playing video and computer games and surfing the
• Establish clear rules: post them near the computer and enforce them. Make sure your child understands what types of Web sites you consider appropriate and what categories of sites are off limits. Do not let surfing the Internet take the place of homework, playing with friends or other activities.
• Participate in your child’s computer activities: Stay involved and monitor what your child is doing. Talk about what he or she sees, hears and reads. You can help him or her learn to question and challenge the meaning of messages. Discuss how the messages your child sees compare with your family’s values. Get to know your child’s online friends just as you would his or her other friends. Ask the same kinds of questions you ask before your child visits friends. Find out where he or she is going online and with whom
• Monitor your child’s use of the computer: Put your family’s computer, video player and TV in a common area where you can see your child’s activities. Buy filtering software that prevents your child from visiting inappropriate sites and help you monitor the files he or she downloads. Keep in mind though that even the best filter may accidentally give your child access to materials you don’t approve of, and many children are smart enough to find ways around these blocks.
• Keep an open conversation: Talk to your son or daughter about how easy it is for people to misrepresent themselves on the Internet. Explain that strangers in chat rooms should be treated with the same caution as strangers on the street. Teach your child not to open e-mail from someone he or she doesn’t know. Advice your child never to arrange to meet in person anyone he or she has met online. Explain why your child should never provide any personal information to someone on the Internet. This includes name, address, phone number, age, school, school location, names of friends, credit card numbers, passwords and vacation plans. Your child should not exchange pictures online. Ask your child about how he or she uses computers outside your home and talk about the kinds of information online. Encourage your child to discuss anything that makes him or her feel uncomfortable.
• Keep on Guard against Cyber Fraud: Never give your child your credit card for online purchases. If you want to allow your child to buy items on the Internet, insist on being involved in all orders. Discuss unsolicited commercial e-mail, called spam, with your child. These offers often are scams. Teach your child to delete these messages. If your child is placed on an unwanted e-mail distribution list, show him or her how to be removed.
• If you suspect a cyber-addiction, have a heart-to-heart discussion with your kids about your concerns. Also set some serious guidelines about computer use. If the problem continues, or you think the computer time is masking depression or anxiety, see your child’s doctor for advice. Don’t hesitate to get professional help because addictions are hard to break.