Sensible and Safe Surfing - Recommendations

The challenges and risks of the Internet must be dealt with on many fronts. One must be prepared to grapple with the influences of the virtual world on one's thinking, on one's ability to concentrate, on one's emotions, one one's social relationships, on one's leisure activity, on one's time, and on one's health.  To assure sensible and safe surfing, one must develop awareness of the effects and risks, establish a healthy family discourse, and construct a safe and protective surfing environment.

Develop Awareness of the Effects and Risks:

Familiarity with the effects of the Internet and multimedia world, its advantages and disadvantages, is the basis for maintaining balance and setting boundaries.  For example, it will be easier for a child to understand why a parent limits his Internet/multimedia use time once he understands the implications of extended screen time on his concentration ability, on his health, and on his ability to engage in other non-screen leisure activities.  A child must be aware of the ease to harmful content, and the difficulties to keep it out.  A child must also begin to understand the powerful loss of time and place that occurs when one becomes engaged by the Internet and multimedia.  It's important that a child understand he cannot face the challenges and risks on the Internet alone.  Rather, he should feel comfortable to discuss them with parents, and seek their support.  Grandparents, too, need to be aware of the effects of the virtual world and its risks when grandchildren are in their care.  Awareness is vital for coping with the Web's challenges.

Establish a Healthy Family Discourse:

Open discourse is another foundation for healthy coping with the Internet's world of surprises and temptations just a click away.  Discourse will shed light on matters, and strengthen and support a child's ability to cope.  No subject is unspeakable; it is more a matter of age-appropriateness, and how a parent addresses a subject.  The conversation must not look like an interrogation.  And a child coming to discuss / seek help must feel that the parent will do all possible to find a solution to the problem.  A parental reaction of anger or disappointment will greatly harm the child's image, and deter him from discussing future problems.  

Once a positive basis of dialogue and understanding is established, a parent can more easily set limits for Internet use. Setting limits should be based on educational discourse, but it is important to maintain parental authority. Tips on how to talk with one's child can be found here.

Construct a Safe and Protective Surfing Environment:

It is important to build a healthy and safe framework for Internet and multimedia use.  Structure the environment as follows:

Place – determine your "surfing and multimedia zone" at home.  Designate an open area for computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone use.  It is important not to allow use of a device in a closed room or isolated space.

Time – Allow Internet use only when parents are present, particularly for younger children.  Allot the amount of time screen time (meaning all devices in total) that is appropriate for the age of the child, and have the child record on a piece of paper the start and end time, or install time management software to limit control.

Content – Be involved in and aware of the browsing content of your child.  Determine what is appropriate for your child.  We recommend using content filtering software to reduce access (accidental or intentional) to offensive content.  See our related articles about filtering and about time managment.

See our related article about Smartphones and Tablets use.