We live in a new kind of world now – a world where the computer and the Internet have become a huge part of our lives. The younger generation of today has no recollection of a time when snail mail and phone calls were the main forms of communication and researching for information meant going to the library to look through stacks of encyclopedias and books. In this digital age, children expect the Internet to provide them with any information they need and depend heavily on it for communication as well.
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As the number of kids exposed to the online world at an early stage of their lives continues to grow, we parents find ourselves presented with the dilemma of how to prevent our children from becoming exposed to the dark side of the online world. Rather than fight it, we should encourage our kids to explore and satiate their curiosity for the Internet, while constantly guiding and monitoring their activities and behavior online.
Computers – and increasingly, tablets and smart phones, too – are good learning tools just like traditional early childhood activities and materials like building blocks, books, writing materials and dramatic play, but we need to examine the impact of technology on our children and make sure that they use it correctly for their own development of literacy, cognitive, and social skills.
How can we do that without overstepping our boundaries? Here are a few ways to manage your children’s use of the Internet:
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• Parental supervision is still advised. Just like how we would want age-appropriate books and magazines to be in the hands of our children, there is also a need for us to monitor what they are doing and viewing online.
• Involve your children in setting up rules. Not only does this make them feel like they are part of the process but they are also more likely to follow the rules. Discuss and make rules with your children about when and how long they can be online and what sites are appropriate for them to visit. You may find that you end up learning a lot from your child as well.