If you have a child, and you have a computer, you have probably run into problems limiting your child’s internet time. “My kids would spend every day all day on the internet if I allowed them — it’s that compelling,” said David Greenfield, Ph. D., author of Virtual Addiction.
The best plan for attack is to create your own balance — and stick to it. At his own house, Greenfield limits his children’s screen time, not just the internet, but also cell phones, PDAs, game boys, laptops, computers and televisions. He says an hour of screen time a day is enough.
When your kids are surfing the web, you can keep a watchful eye with Dr. Greenfield’s six internet safety rules:
* No computers or TVs in kids’ rooms.
* Be aware of what your kids are doing online, even if you don’t understand it. If you don’t understand it, ask them to explain it to you. If they can’t explain it to you, get someone else to.
* Don’t assume your kids will tell you everything they are doing online. Check up on them.
* Remember: everyone is a poor judge of how much they use the internet, especially kids.
* Be aware that the internet can be like a drug — used to avoid other things in life.
* Set an example for a balanced life. You can’t just tell them to limit their internet use — you have to do it, too.
While Greenfield acknowledges there are dangers of too much time surfing the web — keeping kids out of check with school, physical fitness, and social relationships — he says the internet itself is not the problem. “It just eats a lot of time,” he says. “The biggest danger is that it takes kids out of balance with the rest of their lives.”