by Mercy Community Health Care-Hilliary Hirst, LPC-MHSP and Marcy Webb, EdD, LPC-MHSP
With access to the internet, kids and teens can find more resources and networking opportunities than ever before. This can be a wonderful thing – providing the means for young people to discover their interests, explore the world from a handheld device, and build a sense of community with those around them. However, there are serious risks with this increase in freedom and accessibility. According to www.internetsafety101.org, the number one source of harm from the internet is from children accessing pornography—“Experts have warned that the rise in the viewing of pornography was implicated in a variety of problems, including a rise in the levels of STDs and teenage pregnancies.”
The internet poses several threats to children who are using it unmonitored. However parents are the first-line of defense for their children. The boundaries parents set and the communication they initiate can shape the way children use the internet. The following are tips for success that parents can implement in their home to encourage internet safety:
Be involved – spend time together online. Let your child show you what sites he/she enjoys to visit, and monitor what kinds of adds/links/videos are showing up on the websites they visit
Become internet savvy – there are many resources online for parents who want to learn more about how to provide internet safety in their home. For example, www.internetsafety101.org, www.kidshealth.org, and www.netsmartz.org.
Keep the computer or internet-accessible device in a common area – This means NO INTERNET alone in a child or teen’s room. Don’t Forget…iPods, iPads, and gaming systems frequently have internet access too, and tend to be used more privately/without adult supervision. Chat rooms and interactive forums are frequently available through these devices.
Take advantage of parental controls – Most devices have some sort of parental control option. If you are unsure, you can call the manufacturer or research online. Some of these controls make it possible to limit inappropriate content for children. There are also multiple apps available, such as SecureTeen Parental Control, OurPact – Parent Control, and Browser for Kids lite (which are free).
Monitor history and use – A quick google search can give explanation on how to search the history of each devices internet history. This can help parents see if any inappropriate websites have been visited and how frequently.
The most important step a parent can take is to keep open communication with their children about their online activity. Talking to your children about internet safety, answering their questions, and setting guidelines for internet use will help promote a healthy and safe internet environment for your home, which can have a lasting impact.
Thanks so much Mercy Community Healthcare to taking time out to share this information with us. To learn more about Mercy Community Healthcare, visit their website. Mercy Community Healthcare provides healthcare services to everyone regardless of their ability to pay serving Williamson County and beyond.
Brown, J., & L’engle, K. (2009). X-Rated: Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors Associated With U.S. Early Adolescents’ Exposure to Sexually Explicit Media. Communication Research, 129-151.
SecureTeen Parental Control (App)
OurPact Parental Control (App)