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Summer Cyber-Parenting Tips

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Lori Getz: Today's young people are known as Digital Natives. Their brains are physically wired differently from us as parents, and therefore they think and behave in a manner that sometimes seems foreign. As parents, we need to stop fighting their involvement in technology and begin talking.

young girl using computer

With summer coming, most of our kids will be spending more time on the computer to entertain themselves.  Take some simple cyber-parenting steps to maintain your sanity while keeping them safe:

Treat the behavior, not just the technology: Find out WHY your children are online as much as they are. Ask them the same questions you would ask if they were on the phone incessantly! Who are you talking to, what is so important that you can't disconnect? If they are gaming or making friends online, you want to know why! Are there things going on at school that are causing them to look to other sources of friendship? If your child is having a hard time disconnecting long enough to talk to you, try it their way. Send them a text message or IM asking them about their day. You might be surprised at how quickly they respond, and it may bring them back to the physical world where you can have a face-to-face conversation. Show them that you are interested in their world, but at the same time they need to meet you halfway.

Remember that the Internet is a system connecting every computer, mobile device, PSP, DS, X-box live, iPod touch, and everything else that goes online, together. When your kids go online, they are opening themselves up to the entire world. Would you let your kids walk out the front door without asking where they are going and whom they are going with? If not, then why would you let them wander the entire world of cyberspace and not ask those same questions?

Experts agree the computer belongs in a public area of the home. When the computer is in a public place in the home, your children sense they are being observed. The more time children, tweens, and teens spend online, the more opportunities they have to be exposed to inappropriate content, cyber-bullying, online predators, or become a victim of Internet addiction. Children's time on the computer needs to be monitored.

When this rule is put in place early on, there is little discussion about why. It's just where the computer belongs.

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