One thing I learned when I became a parent is that there’s a big difference between being a non-parent who likes kids and being a parent. One of the ways this manifests, for me, is in advice. I’ve worked in a lot of family & children’s service programs over the years, and parents have often asked me for advice on various topics. The way I give advice has changed since I’ve had a seat on the other side of the table too. It’s a lot easier to give advice on many topics than it is to have to deal with the topic in real life.
Take kids & the Internet, for example. It was pretty easy to do projects in library school about why Internet filters designed to restrict children’s Internet access don’t work very well. However, I found it somewhat harder to conjure up something that *did* make me feel safe about my child’s online access.
This past summer I entertained a growing awareness that it was time to formally talk with the kid about his use of the computer & Internet. He’s had limited, highly supervised, computer privileges for a while now, but he’s getting old enough to have more responsibility and less micro-management on my behalf.
I was surprised to find myself at a bit of a loss as to what exactly our house rules should be! I’m a librarian, I thought. I’m the one who gives other people advice on these topics! Yet I wasn’t exactly sure what to do in my own home. Oh dear.
After having my moment of humility, I asked myself what I’d recommend to another parent who asked me for advice on the topic. Well, of course I’d send them to the ALA website, as I knew they had a bunch of resources on online safety. Wow, are some of those resources:
- seriously out of date,
- very US-American, and
- rather paranoid.
That said, some of the links were useful as inspiration. Feeling somewhat unsatisfied by my ALA website experience, I turned to an online parenting community of which I’m a part and asked for advice from other parents. Surprisingly few of them had specific rules or contracts with their kids governing Internet use either.
In the end, I ended up creating our own house rules for computer/Internet use. Some of the rules were negotiated with the kid, others were non-negotiable in my book, still others the kid came up with himself. We typed them up together, printed them out, and then I shared them with my online parenting community.
And now I’m going to share them with you. Why? Not because I think the rules in your house should be exactly the same as the rules in my house, but because they are up-to-date and might give you a template or some ideas for either your own house or the next time a parent asks you for advice.
I’m out of the youth services loop these days, so I’m not sure how common it is for children’s librarians to produce sample house computer/Internet use rules lists, but given recent news that kids are gaming online more than their parents know,such resources are worth considering.
If anyone reading this knows of really good sites with other guidelines/rules, or thinks there are rules that should be added to the above to make a suggested list, please leave a comment.
Greyson’s Computer Use Rules
(For context, these rules were made for/with a 7-year-old/grade 3 child who can read & type independently, likes to play Club Penguin and Super Mario, and has his own blog to which only I know the password.)
In one day, you can have: 1 30-minute computer time OR 2 20-minute computer times with least 20 minutes in between
Computer time cannot carry over from one day to another.
Family computers can be used in the living room.
Other locations only by special arrangement.
You can go to pre-approved websites on your own.
You have to have a grown-up with you to surf the net/search for new sites.
Nothing you have to pay for, without parental permission.
You never give out personal information online (phone #, address, what school you go to, pictures of you, etc.)
You never give your passwords to anyone, even friends, and if someone finds one out you tell us asap so we can help change it.
Agree to share any passwords to any sites with us (Gmail, Club Penguin…) and not change these without telling us.
Be polite online like in real life.
Never download anything without our permission.
On Club Penguin, you can add buddies without specific permission
No shooting games without specific permission to play that game