Enough is Enough: Monitoring Technology According to Age

by Jennifer Dryden

As parents we often become lax in monitoring our children’s use of technology. However, this is very dangerous, and we cannot afford to be passive when it comes to their internet use.  Weekly, I hear stories and deal with situations where kids have made poor choices about what they have posted, who they have talked to online, or what sites they have visited.

I recently discovered a great online resource called Enough is Enough that gives many tips on keeping kids safe.  Our children use the internet in a variety of ways depending on age.  Here is some advice that www.enough.org provides that we can consider developmentally as we parent our children in respect to their use of technology.

Five to seven-year-olds:

  • Are very capable of using computers, cell phones
  • Accept media content at face value
  • Don’t have the critical thinking skills to be online or to text alone
  • May be frightened by media images, both real and fictional
  • May be unintentionally exposed to inappropriate websites
  • Are vulnerable to online marketers who ask for personal information
  • Risk moving from appropriate to inappropriate sites through hyperlinks

Parents should always sit with children at this age when they are online.  Parents are encouraged to use kid-friendly search engines and set age appropriate filtering.  Keep internet connected computers in a common living area so that you can easily monitor it.  Block all texting, picture and video messaging, and access to any kind of message boards at this age.

Eight to ten-year-olds:

  • Are interested in what older kids are doing
  • Tend to be trusting and often do not question authority
  • Enjoy surfing online and use mobile devices for fun and games
  • Lack critical thinking skills to be alone online
  • Are curious and interested in discovering new information
  • Are vulnerable to online marketers to give out personal information
  • May begin to communicate with online acquaintances that they may not know in real life
  • May be influenced by media images that appear cool or desirable
  • May be exposed to search results with links to inappropriate sites
  • Are vulnerable to online predators if they use social networks (Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.)

Sit with your children when they are online, or make sure they only visit sites you have approved.  Keep internet connected devices in common living areas so you can monitor your child’s use.  Use kid-friendly search engines and set parental controls.  Do not allow social networks, texting, or chatting.  Teach your kids to always come to you before giving out any personal information through email, online contests, registrations, messaging, etc.

Eleven to thirteen-year-olds:

  • Can be highly influenced by what their friends are doing online and crave independence
  • Tend to use internet to help with school work, download music, email, text, play online games, and go to sites of interest
  • Enjoy texting with their friends
  • Lack the critical thinking skills to judge the accuracy of online information
  • Feel in control when it comes to technology
  • Are vulnerable to online marketers who encourage them to give out personal information
  • Are interested in building relationships with online acquaintances
  • Are at the most vulnerable age range to become victims of sexual predators
  • May be bullied or may be bullying others online

Keep internet connected computers in common living areas and out of your child’s bedroom.  Set parental controls for all internet enabled devices.  Talk with your kids about their online activities and friends just like you do their offline activities.  Instruct your child to avoid face to face meetings with anyone they only know online.  Teach your kids to never give out personal information without your permission.  Insist on access and passwords to your child’s email and text messages so that you can make sure they are not talking to strangers.  Talk to your kids about ethical online behavior.  They should not be using the internet to spread gossip or to bully.  Check your browser history.  Limit time online.  Do not allow your children to have online profiles or pages on social networking sites (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Only allow access to YouTube with caution.  Your children should not post pictures or videos unless under close parental supervision.