Here are my tips as a parent on how to teach your children to be smart on the Web. I have triplet 11 year olds and an 18 year old son so I know a thing or two about how kids want to use the Web.
Some of the sites all my kids love are Runescape, Club Penguin, Silk Road, YouTube, and Voyage Century. Many of these online games have integrated chat rooms or the ability to talk to others during interactions of the games.
What I do is try to play each new game once or at least watch my children play. There are some games that I have banned. For example there was one where you shot cats and there was lots of blood. That one instantly got banned. I don’t mind the action games but when people are killed, there is blood or just a lot of indiscriminate violence, my kids are simply not allowed to play.
Additionally they are never allow to share their real last names, their ages, school, mascot, or city. I have taken the time to explain that this is not about denying a friendship but for their protection. I have encouraged my kids to let me know when someone in a chat room talks dirty to them so we can report them together or so I can log them off. It happens, but I want them to allow me to help them so that they know that it is not okay to listen or participate in those types of conversations.
We’ve talked about sharing your password and login information on games, and that I consider it off-limits. You’ll find that their are schoolmates and online buddies who will actually steal the things that your child has worked hard to earn on a game by enticing them to give in and give out their login and password. Terrible that these issues can cause real angst for your kids. So it makes it easy to say to someone who asks for the information – I am not allowed, my Mom won’t let me.
The other big rule that I established early was no computers in bedrooms, all seven computers in our house are in the main rooms. This way, as I walk by, I can see what someone is doing or playing. This even keeps my 18 year old away from viewing pornography or dating sites. You know yourself what’s out there and sometimes kids of all ages are curious, so keep them clean and away from trouble by laying down the law and then make them accountable by keeping computers where you can see them.
My other big rule is only 15 minutes of computer time on school days and only two hours of time each day on the weekends. I have a program called Computer Time that I installed to manage their time and lock them off when they are over, but that is another great blog post I’ll do next week.
You may have other rules, but these are mine and they have really worked to allow my kids to have fun on the Internet and with online games and yet be safe.