The Internet is a wonderful but double-edged tool. I want my children to discover the power of such a tool but I don't want to let them be exposed to questionable contents. I would like also to educate them to the value of information they receive through that channel (true, false, gossip, fact, point of view, interpretation, manipulation, ...).

What answers did you find with your children? I am more interested in educational advices than technical ones, but free free to share any of your experiences if you find it's worthwhile.

Today my children are too young (3 years old and 18 months old) to be concerned, but I try to anticipate. And even now I no longer look for cartoons on YouTube since the day when some research results were somewhat unrelated to say the less.


Thank you all for your great answers! Here is a synthesis of what I take from your answers:

  • Supervision (computer in a room where children are not alone, use of search engines with parents, teaching them to ask for advice when they find something unwanted)
  • Communication (chat with them about what they just discovered)
  • Balance between freedom and restrictions (full internet with some parental control on, password of mail account) I have to find out where I put the limit for my own children.

Though I was aware of some risks, they didn't come to my mind when I asked my question:

  • The Internet is not only taking but also giving: don't unveil information about privacy (phone number, embarrassing pictures, unfair comments about your math teacher, ...)
  • Instant messaging with strangers who could disguise their identity (on the internet nobody knows you're a dog)
  • Intentional search of questionable contents: I do know that this will eventually happen. If not at home, at friends.

And feel free to add other answers and experiences!

This question is marked "community wiki".

asked 22 Oct '09, 14:31

mouviciel's gravatar image

accept rate: 7%

edited 23 Oct '09, 18:52

Absolutely have the computer in a family space, and not away in their bedroom.

Our kids are young enough (10 and 7) to not yet really try to be looking at stuff they shouldn't - so we've got the policy that if they hit anything that isn't right, or they are unsure, to come get one of us. They don't get in trouble, we just talk about what they've found and why it is not appropriate, etc, and then move on.

Out eldest plays quite a bit on a games site (mostly board games like backgammon, salvo and such). She's a bit of a social butterfly on this and so quite chatty with other people as she plays. Again, we've got the understanding that if somebody says something she thinks is strange then to come get one of us. So far we've only had one case where what was said was a bit odd, and we monitored her continued communications with that player until we were satisfied it was nothing.

We also talked to her at length about what information is okay to give out on the internet, and what isn't. She knows that if someone asks where she lives to say "Melbourne" and not our actual suburb, and certainly not our full address. Not to type in our phone number or even her surname without checking with us.

She has her own (gmail) email address, but knows that we know the passwords and can go in and check it out - mostly she uses it to email with Grandma which is lovely. I actually have it as an imap on my mail client, but mostly so I can go in and regularly clean up spam issues before she sees them.

We haven't had to deal with things like Facebook yet, but I've heard other parents have a condition of using FB is they have to friend their parent's account.

I think the best you can do is talk to your kids about good Internet habits on an ongoing basis. At this point it's the don't type in your phone number or full address. Later it will be the, "Would you want a potential employer reading this in five years time if they googled your name?" kind of talks about privacy and reasonable behaviour.

And even given all that, you'll still have the "kids will be kids" issues. They will eventually try and find porn on the Internet despite your best efforts. Hopefully if you've done a reasonable job, those efforts will be short lived. And if you're thinking, "My son would never do that," you're wrong. Many I parent I've shocked and dismayed because they've asked me to come over and clean up the family PC because it is running slow, and aside from the usual malware and such I've almost always found a porn stash.

One funny anecdote in closing. Before the days of widespread broadband our work had a bank of dial-up modems for employees to use to dial in so they could work remotely. Our actual Internet connect was also pretty slow, so it wasn't unusual for me to theck the proxy log if the Internet was really slow to try and diagnose what is going on.

On one such occurrence, I found someone logged in from one of the dial-up modems was looking up URLs that were obviously porn sites. I thought to myself, "I don't think she would be the type of person to be doing that" (she had left the office for the day). So I rang her house and the teenage son answered. "Hello, is so and so there?" "No, I'm the only one here at the moment." came the bored reply. So I said, "No worries. By the way, if you don't stop doing that you'll go blind." and hang up. Didn't say who I was or where I was from or nothing. That modem line dropped in five seconds flat.

This answer is marked "community wiki".

answered 22 Oct '09, 22:05

Evan's gravatar image

accept rate: 55%

First of all, we made sure the children's computer was in a shared family room downstairs. That way the assumption is that Mummy or Daddy could easily see anything that's done on the computer. Luckily they are not old enough to go looking for "dodgy stuff" yet, but with any luck it won't occur to them if the computer is in such a public place.

Secondly, we set it up so that the homepage is the CBeebies website (for those not in the UK, it's a publicly-funded TV channel for the under-sevens, without any commerical advertising, which we consider perfectly safe for them to browse around). We later added a "children's homepage" with links to other sites like Charlie & Lola or Pingu.

We do look at YouTube videos, but always with an adult present. Even if the original video is suitable, the related links can often lead somewhere less child-friendly, so we have to keep an eye out, and only click on things we (the adults) have seen before.

Now the eldest (seven) is doing bits of homework requiring research, we use the Internet for that, still under supervision.

We have yet to experience the delight of Facebook and chatrooms with our children, but I'm sure it will come eventually :-) .

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answered 22 Oct '09, 14:43

Paul%20Stephenson's gravatar image

Paul Stephenson
accept rate: 4%

I let my eldest son on the web with no restrictions. Currently he only goes to sites he knows about anyway, but I'm sure eventually he'll discover search. At that point - and only at that point - I'll chat with him about "stuff we don't want to see" and make sure that Safe Search is on for him.

I think that while the kids are pretty young, the chances of them accidentally ending up on questionable sites are relatively slim. I think it would only be confusing to go into "the dark side" of the net too much with Tom at the moment. I'm trying to keep an eye on what he learns at school in ICT lessons as well though, so that when they talk about internet safety there we can back it up at home.

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answered 22 Oct '09, 14:44

Jon%20Skeet's gravatar image

Jon Skeet
accept rate: 35%

Educate them about who is putting out the information, is it a reliable source, can you verify that it is fact? Surf the internet with them and discuss what you are looking at.

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answered 22 Oct '09, 18:34

Michelle's gravatar image

accept rate: 3%

I agree with everything Paul Stephenson said, especially about the computer being in a common area. In fact, I think this should remain in place as long as possible. In the older years, the little balls of hormones can self-regulate quite well when they know they can be watched and won't when they can't be watched. And I don't just mean regarding pornography. My teenage sister-in-law is a generally very kind person but in heated moments will be as catty and cruel as any other teenage girl. There have definitely been changes in behavior when someone walks into a room.

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answered 22 Oct '09, 14:55

Dinah's gravatar image

accept rate: 15%

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Asked: 22 Oct '09, 14:31

Seen: 2,626 times

Last updated: 23 Oct '09, 18:52