| "As parents, we have a responsibility to monitor our children's
use of the Internet. Ms. Hughes has presented us with a resource to...
ensure that our children's experience using the Internet is a safe
Senator John McCain, Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee
on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
How can I build a trust relationship with my
When are children ready to use a computer or go online?
What should I tell my child about the
risks and dangers of cyberspace?
What kinds of rules and limitations regarding
online activity do I need to set for my child?
The First Line of Defense
Parents need to establish the rules for the Information Superhighway,
spelling out what kids can do, what they should avoid, and how to
respond to messages and material that make them uncomfortable. To
do that, we need to be aware of practical and helpful resources, safety
tips, and technological solutions that guard against online risks.
Establishing an Atmosphere of Trust
Maintaining a continuing dialogue with your child is one of the
keys to building an atmosphere of trust around your computer.
When Is My Child Ready to Go Online?
The Children's Partnership has developed some age-appropriate guidelines,
based on the advice of child development experts. I've adapted their
guidelines and expanded on the safety precautions for each age group:
Ages Two to Three
You may choose to introduce your toddler to computers. There are
games and interactive activities on CD-ROMs or other software
(rather than online activities) that are geared to the level of
a two to three year old.
Ages Four to Seven Children at this age begin to make
greater use of computer games and educational products. Older
children in this age range, with their parents, may also begin
exploring online children's areas. This is a good time to begin
talking about rules for using the computer and going online.
Ages Eight to Eleven
At eight to eleven years of age most children begin to directly
encounter and appreciate more fully the potential of online experiences.
Set clear guidelines concerning your child's online behavior.
Ages Twelve to Fourteen
Adolescents are capable of using the sophisticated research resources
of the Internet. I want to encourage you to consider the risks
of allowing your teenager unlimited Internet freedom. Parents
must set up clear rules for teenagers.
Ages Fifteen to Nineteen Older teens can use the Internet
to search for information about job opportunities, internships,
and colleges or universities. With their increased skills, curiosity,
and freedom come more ways to run into undesirable and even dangerous
Warning signs that my child has a problem with pornography on the
Rules of the Road
Summary of Safety Tips for Children
- Never fill out questionnaires or any forms online or give out
- Never agree to meet in person with anyone you have spoken to
- Never enter a chat room.
- Never tell anyone online where you will be or what you will
be doing without Mom and/or Dad's permission.
- Never respond to or send e-mail to new people you meet online.
- Never send a picture over the Internet or via regular mail to
anyone you've met on the Internet.
- Never respond to any belligerent or suggestive contact or anything
that makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Always tell Mom and/or Dad about something you saw that is upsetting.
Summary of Safety Tips for Parents
- Become more computer literate and develop Internet savvy .
- Place your computer in an area of your home where you can easily
monitor your child's Internet activity.
- Talk with your kids about their online friends and activities.
- Implement parental controls available on your online service,
install protective software on your home computer, or use a clean
- Monitor the amount of time your child spends on the Internet.
- Establish online rules and an agreement with your child about
Internet use while at home or away from home.
- Watch for changes in your child's behavior (mention of adults
you don't know, secretiveness, inappropriate sexual knowledge,
sleeping problems, etc.).
This chapter and appendix E include several sample family contracts
to draw ideas for your own house rules.
Breaking the Rules
In the event that you discover your child has violated your house
rules, try to meet the transgression with an appropriate discipline.
Your supervision and communication of expectations are the keys
to your child having a safe and enjoyable experience on the Internet.
Use the suggestions and age-appropriate guidelines in this chapter
to help your child earn that license to drive on the Information