By: Rebecca Keller.
Does your daughter spend all her free time on the computer? If she’s anything like my tween (my daughter just turned 12), she’s constantly shopping online, playing online games, and, of course, chatting with her girlfriends on Facebook! At first I had no problem with her using the family computer for a few hours in the evening. However, after my husband and I found a great deal on cheap yet powerful laptops and bought her one for her birthday, suddenly it was a fight to get her off the computer and to the dinner table.
This addictive computer behavior really started to concern us as parents. And when I confronted my daughter about the amount of time she was spending online…as you can imagine, she was pretty defensive. Needless to say, her computer was taken away for a few days. Afterwards, I decided to do a little research on computer use and how kids can actually become addicted. Even worse, I learned that excessive computer use can actually lead to difficulties sleeping, behavioral issues like ADHD, and how extremely violent video games and sexual images can actually desensitize girls and lead to provocative and violent behavior in real life.
So I decided that it was time to put some boundaries around my daughter’s computer use in our household. Here are three tips I used to curb her computer use.
Offer Excitement Away From the Computer
When I learned that addictive computer use can actually threaten my daughter’s sense of creativity I was heartbroken. This is a girl who as a child made up stories, played dress up and hosted tea parties for her imaginary friends. The last thing I was willing to do was have her come home and zone out for the evening in front of a bright screen. To get her outside and away from the computer, we’ve instituted regular family nights—one night we play games, the next we walk the dogs and explore the neighborhood, the next we craft.
Limit and Screen Computer Games
When I read statistics from a recent Harris Study that polled 1.778 American kids and teens from 8 to 18-years-old, I was shocked to learn that one in ten kids are actually addicted to video games , meaning they show obsessive behavior towards playing games—such as lying to play, and showing anger when games are interrupted). Now I make sure any game my daughter is playing is pre-screened for sexual and violent content, and I limit her to 1 hour a week.
Talk Openly About Why She’s Online and Privacy Protection
Part of the reason I was so concerned with my daughter’s computer usage was because I was worried about the risks of her becoming a victim of an online predator. With the amount of time she spending online—especially on social networks like Facebook—I wanted to ensure that she wasn’t sharing any private information or photos that could put her at risk. So I had a frank talk with her about why she was online? What she did online? And we talked about how to communicate and share online safety. It turned out that she was just chatting with her girlfriends online and maybe flirting with a few boys in her class. But I think it’s our job as parents, to be aware of what our kids see, are exposed to, and who they are communicating with online. After our talk, my daughter added me to Facebook and we screened her profile together to ensure she only has friends she knows as her Facebook friends. We also updated her privacy settings so only those she accepts as friends can see her profile. This way, I can check up on her regularly and follow the internet breadcrumbs to ensure there are no strange contacts accessing her profile.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Rebecca Keller is a graduate of the Arts and Technology program at the University of Texas. An admitted tech-junkie, freelance writing about Android devices for AndGeeks.com offers the perfect outlet for a tech geek like Rebecca. When she’s offline, which isn’t very often, Rebecca enjoys volunteering for her local animal shelter and off road mountain biking.
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