Should I allow my children on the internet?

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Answered by: Terrina, An Expert in the Computing Basics and Safety Category
Every generation of parents faces different worries than the ones that came before them. Parents have gone from worrying about the fallout from a possible nuclear attack to, well, worrying about the fallout from a possible nuclear attack. What also hasn't changed for parents is worrying about the safety of their children and tracking who has access to them. With the way the internet creeps into everyday things like how we get our radio and watch TV, it seems impossible to guard children against threats from the outside world. So when kids approach their parents asking about being allowed to access various social media applications, it's hard to know what to do.

Every child matures differently, so there's no clear-cut answer about what the right age is for allowing children on the internet to use applications like Snapchat or Facebook. Some parents feel fine letting their 10-year old upload videos of themselves on YouTube or Others don't want their children even thinking about going on the internet until they're of driving age. Keeping children completely web-free can be impossible now that so many schools have teachers who utilize the internet themselves to pass out and accept assignments. Kids may also need to log on to do research for various school assignments. Effectively keeping children safe on the web means being completely involved in what they're doing online. No letting them have free reign to go where they want, only to stumble into a situation that gets out of control.

It's an unfortunate reality that adults use so-called kid-friendly applications to stalk young victims and lure them into a dangerous situation. If a parent allows a child to have any type of video account, they should be there to help them set it up. Look for controls that restrict who's allowed to view their videos. Many services have different levels of access that restricts both what children see and who sees them based on the given age of the user. Even this may not be enough if a predator creates a fake account with a false age. The same reality exists with applications like Snapchat and Instagram. A child's innocent beach photos become material for stalking in the wrong hands. Once a child can sign up, track any friend requests or likes to their profiles. Question anyone not recognized and review the profile of any questionable user. Look at any messages sent that seems improper for a child's age. Outside of worrying about predators, parents need to watch for any abusive behavior directed at their children from any other users. Bullying online has become just as big a problem as the traditional schoolyard harassment. Watch for changes in a child's mood, and pull them away from any situation harmful to their emotional well-being.

Allowing children on the internet means expanding the scope of the world they live in. That leads to potentially exposing them to both physical and mental threats. Stay involved, keep communication open, and help children learn how to be responsible online.

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