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Grade-Schoolers Their Lives Expand : Screen Time How much is too much? (part 2) - The internet Advantages and disadvantages

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The internet Advantages and disadvantages

Almost all children ages eight to 17 use the internet. Now is your opportunity to influence your child’s online behavior while he is young and likely to comply. This gives you an opportunity to get things right in preparation for years of internet use, so that you can maximize the benefits and reduce and manage the risks.

Risks

There are four main categories of risk: What your child might find on the internet; who he will meet; how he and others behave; and, finally, how he understands what he encounters. When it comes to the content found on the internet there is no doubt that this technology has increased the likelihood that children will come across sexually explicit material. The impact of what he sees may be influenced by your child’s background, age, cognitive, social, and physical development. However, there is growing evidence that pornography can have a very negative impact on children, ranging from distress to the development of distorted belief systems.

In order to prevent this from happening in your home, you can put parental controls in place that block unsuitable material. It is worth checking that similar controls are in place on computers at his friends’ homes. Most parents will be relieved to know that you are just as concerned and proactive as they are. Should precautions fail and your child stumbles across sexually explicit material, he may react in a range of ways, from shock, to curiosity, to amusement or disgust. It is worth having a general conversation about unsuitable images and offering advice and support that suits your child’s personality and temperament—reassuring to one who might be upset by such things, calming and serious to another who might be excited and titillated by such lewdness. You as a parent will have to judge your tone and emphasis and guard against making a big deal that may encourage the seeking out of such images.

Risk management

Sitting with your child while he browses allows you to control what he accesses online.

Cyberbullying

This has all the damaging features of offline bullying, but with the extra elements of anonymity and the invasiveness of the internet into the safe haven of home. Part of the malevolent power of cyberbullies is their ability to distort and abuse personal information. This represents one element of a greater risk associated with posting personal information on the internet.

Although you may have told your child not to give out details about himself, he may not hesitate when communicating on a social-networking site with someone he believes to be a friend. In a large survey of 8–17-year-olds, nearly half admitted to giving out personal information to people they meet on the internet. If verbal reminders from you get overlooked, it might be worth assigning your son the task of making a big, bright sign above the computer to remind himself and his siblings NEVER to give out personal details, with all the gruesome visual imagery he can muster.

Another considerable risk to young children is the opportunity that the internet affords for commercial advertising and potential exploitation. Side by side, sitting at the computer, you can help him cast a critical eye over what is really available, and the need for caution and a bit more research before purchasing things online. It is also worth quoting real-life examples from friends and family of being ripped off.

Enormous potential benefits

The internet offers wonderful opportunities for learning and developing cognitive skills via fun, interactive sites that engage children in ways that formal education cannot always do. For children who are struggling to engage in school, this can be a lifeline. Online communities represent all manner of interests, affording children the opportunity to participate in ways not available to them offline. In particular, the global nature of the internet can connect children across the world in social, cultural, ecological, political, and ethnic groups.

Networks

One of the great benefits of the internet is that it connects people across the world.

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