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Setting Boundaries with Kids and the Internet

Setting boundaries with kids and the internet is something I learned about many years ago. This post was written on February 23, 2010. It is now February 2016 and this is something that is constantly changing and now that my kids are older (6 years older!) I am still dealing with these things and more. Internet safety is higher on my radar than ever. I’ve updated the posts a few places with new information, but kept the kid’s ages as they were for nostalgia. 

The older our kids get, the more boundaries we have to place on the internet.  The internet is a wonderful thing, but one mis-type or curiosity search can lead places that we don’t want our kids to be online.

internet boundaries with kids

The 6-Year Old Gets a Gmail Account

My husband was home with my daughter on President’s Day. I was at work, my phone buzzed – looked down to find an email from my daughter, who’s 6.  Her daddy hooked her up with her very own gmail account. How sweet. My daughter has her own email, she can now email me and I can email her and it will be like a modern day pen pal. Yeah, that was my initial thought.

THEN, I start getting emails like this:

Email from my 6 year old

That evening I received 2 emails regarding Z and her new account.

  1. My sister in law emailed to inform me that Z is emailing her sales ads from Amazon, asking if she needed to buy her a tv. No idea how she got on the Amazon list THAT quick.
  2. My friend Mel emailed, apparently Z got ahold of her son’s email address and was emailing him over and over. My 6-year-old is an email spammer!

Who knew, my daughter was a spammer, except her intention is good and not to make money!

Something I never thought of was having to teach my children to email. With email being the new form of letter writing, it has to be taught. This includes limiting the number of bouncing icons, fonts, font sizes and colors!

Setting Boundaries for My Kid with the Internet 

Here are some basic guidelines my husband and I laid out for our kids using the web – boundaries people, kids need them!

  • We have made both kids well aware that we have access to everything they do online. We explained that whatever is viewed, emailed or typed we can see. Not that our 6 and 4 year old are all that sneaky YET – but felt it was best to lay this ground work down now because LORD only knows what we’ll be dealing with in a few years.
  • The kids’ computer will be in a public space. (Sorry kiddos, like our policy on no tv’s in the bedroom – you won’t have a computer in your bedroom either.)
  • No Googling! Yes, your Mommy googles EVERYTHING, this is exactly why we’re not exposing you to this. There are certain things you should learn from your parents, not the internet.
  • Any online profile has to be setup by Mom or Dad. This means Webkinz, McDonalds, Littlest Petshop, Barbie, what have you – we will setup for you.
  • Stranger danger – much like you tell your kids, don’t talk to strangers in public places – the internet is just as creepy. This fear is probebly from me watching one too many episodes of “To Catch a Predator”.
  • Short-cuts and bookmarks – we’ve setup several sites as bookmarks and short-cuts and keep the kids in these urls. While their little fingers often click to find another site – we always redirect them back to our approved sites.

As much as I hate micro-managers, I’ve become a micro-managing parent when it comes to the digital space. Part of my job is working with teen girls in social media. The lack of understanding of how PUBLIC they are and how what they put online has a lasting effect does not seem to phase most teens. While I am sure my kids will make mistakes, we’re going to at least try to get them started on the right foot.

Empowering Kids for the Future

Something that I want for my kids is no fear of technology. I honestly believe they have the knowledge to do things because they don’t know they can’t. They will try, ask and learn how to do something because they just know it can be done.

While my parents may have a hard time downloading pictures off of a camera or setting up a printer, teaching my children to do these things while they are young will only help leverage their knowledge and build their motivation to learn more. Hence the difference between a digital native and a digital immigrant.

How are babies made?

There Are Somethings the Internet Shouldn’t Teach.

Yes, I’ve learned a lot of what I know (or think I know) from the internet, but somethings should be taught by parents. With Google at my kids’ fingertips they can learn things way before i’m ready. We have to be prepared for this. I don’t want to limit my kids abilities BUT – I think knowledge of certain things at a young age needs to be limited.

Innocent Searching – Downloading Viruses

Our daughter loves Tinkerbell – so when innocently searching FAIRY GAMES – she came across some interesting web sites. One of those web sites gave her computer a lovely virus.
Open DNS

We now use Open DNS. This allows us to put limits and internet boundaries on what they can see and access online.

What online policies and internet boundaries have you set for your kids?

Tip: When setting up email for kids, don’t use their name in the address, use generic.