Your child comes home from school and makes a beeline for their computer. Your child is so engrossed in whatever it is he or she is doing online that you’ll be lucky if they even look up once you leave the room. He (and millions of other kids) is hopelessly hooked on modern technology. Here’s how to handle the situation.
Advantages and disadvantages
Without a doubt, there are definite advantages to technology and the Internet. For one thing, it makes the processing of information faster. It makes certain tasks easier. It makes communication easier too. But as with anything else, too much of a good thing can be bad. Spending too much time on the Internet can cause problems, many of which are health-related. In fact, there is a disorder known as Internet addiction syndrome, defined as excessive computer use that interferes with daily life. If left unchecked, your child’s habit of casually going online for a few hours each day could turn into that before you even realize what’s wrong.
Find the balance
So what should you do? Well, for starters, don’t ban your children from going online. You know what they say about teenagers: if you put them on a short leash, they will find ways to rebel or get around any of the rules you set. With laptops and mobile Internet, they could pack the laptop, disappear from your sight and you’d never find out where they are or what they’re doing. Completely banning the use of technology won’t be a very good idea either. Technology can also be a good thing. It can work wonders in our lives, provided we know how best to use it—and what not to do with it. The thing to do is to find a middle ground. Learn how to compromise. Work with technology, not against it.
If, as parents, you’re worried about your child’s safety on the Internet, you can teach them not to give out personal information to strangers online. Remind them that while it’s OK to share some things on Facebook or Twitter, they should know when and where to draw the line. If you’re also worried about what they get up to on the Internet when you’re not looking, you can look into the possibility of installing what experts call filters—programs that prevent minors from gaining access to sensitive material, such as pornography, online—on your home computer.
Maybe parents could tell their kids to do their homework first, then spend the rest of their time online if that’s what they want to do. The key here is balance. Some kids spend scads of time online and end up forgetting about the other, more important things they have to do, like actual homework. Parents need to monitor what their kids do on the computer, but not to the point where their kids feel like they’re being spied on. You see, some kids run to the computer on the pretense of needing it to do homework or send important documents to some of their classmates as part of a project. What they actually end up doing is surfing the Internet and spending time on social networking sites or playing games. Parents need to gently bring their kids back to what it is they’re actually supposed to be doing online.
Also, it would help if parents could encourage their kids to play outside once in a while instead of on the information superhighway all the time. That’s probably what will work best in terms of helping kids balance their time on the Internet—encouraging them to build a life beyond what they do and see online.