Many parents fear the moment their child will start surfing the Web by herself, unsupervised. However frightening this may be, it’s undeniable that the internet affects nearly every aspect of our lives today. That includes children’s lives, as they will frequently need to use the family computer, whether for homework or Skyping friends. This leads parents to a difficult decision: to keep the computer in a common area or behind closed doors.
Of course, most parents trust their children to use the Internet responsibly. However trustworthy your child may be, the internet can connect them with people who can’t be trusted. According to NoBullying.com, 82% of sexual crimes committed online are against minors. If the computer is in an open area, then parents can keep tabs on who messages their children and what they’re talking about.
Even if parents warn their children not to talk to strangers online, children may not report someone else’s inappropriate behavior. Often, they’re afraid of getting into trouble themselves. Also, they might have encountered the predator on a site they weren’t supposed to visit. Parents can help their children stay away from predators by initiating and maintaining an open conversation about the dangers of the Internet. Keeping the computer in a common room creates more opportunities for these discussions. It also offers parents a discreet way to see the messages others send to their children.
Also, parents should consider keeping the computer in a common room to protect children from their own peers. According to a 2013 study by McAfee Online Safety for Kids, 50% of children who are cyberbullied never tell their parents. Having the computer in a common room helps parents monitor online conversations. Parents will be able to see the child’s emotional reaction to what they’re reading. It helps them help their children handle bullying as well.
Even if parents limit children’s internet access, keeping computers in children’s bedrooms can still be harmful. A study published in the scholarly journal SLEEP showed that children with gaming computers in their rooms went to bed on weekdays much later than those without. Although the children are not being exposed to the dangers of the Internet, they are losing valuable hours of sleep.
Children may argue that keeping the computer in their bedroom helps them avoid noise and focus. In response, the Cyberbullying Research Center suggests that parents be flexible. If the family computer is a laptop, parents may allow children to work on homework assignments in their room for a specific amount of time. As they prove they can responsibly use the computer in their room, parents can increase that amount of time.
Parents also should realize that children can benefit from their example. By keeping the computer in the common area, children will see how their parents use technology responsibly. That way, they can learn from their parents’ example.
Text by Melissa Lawrence