If possible, before your child even starts using the Internet, have a discussion about the positive and negative aspects of its use, with an emphasis on safety (like how and why you should protect your identity) and the importance of managing time spent online. Just like you wouldn’t give your child the keys to the car without a driving lesson, you shouldn’t give your child access to the Internet world without a few helpful hints.
Work with your child to set reasonable limits on Internet use. Differentiate between time spent doing homework and fun time, when they can go online to chat with friends or play games.
It’s one thing to tell your child not to spend every waking hour online, but it’s another to keep your own BlackBerry habits in check. If you don’t want your child texting during dinner—an important family time for you—avoid answering the phone and being distracted by technology when your attention may be important to your child, like during a sports game.
If your child is spending an unhealthy amount of time online, it’s up to you as a parent to intervene. Michael Rich, MD, MPH, recommends issuing a challenge: Ask your child to prove they can live without using the Internet for a week. If they can, they’ll likely spend that time catching up on activities they neglected while online, like playing with friends or talking to their siblings. If they grow anxious and are unwilling to stop, it may be time to see a doctor.
No child willfully gives a parent access to their Facebook page. But Rich says that coming to an amicable agreement with your child where you’re allowed to look at her page once in awhile can hugely impact what they’re willing to share online and may stop them from posting things they’ll later regret. The point isn’t to be nosey; it’s to keep the option of supervision on the table. Another tactic, especially if you’re trying to modify your child’s unhealthy Internet habits, is to keep the computer in a family room. Kids are much less likely to surf for porn or play hours upon hour of Internet games if they know they’re being watched.