Q: I’d like to set a "time limit" for my son to be able to access the Internet, without having to manually shut off the router each time. What is the best/easiest way to do this so that he can’t override it on his machine — Julie
A: The sad fact about the current generation of computer users is that it’s likely that your kids know more about your computer than you do!
And in most cases, the youngsters in the house help parents deal with the various pitfalls of having this most useful technology in the home.
But when it comes to having your kids help you protect them from themselves, you can’t ask them to be the source of information.
There have been dramatic advances in tools that can help parents recapture control of the home computer and they are very easy to use.
With all the distractions the Internet brings into your home, setting boundaries in time is an excellent way to keep it from completely absorbing our children.
I have used several products for years in my own home as well as when our clients ask for help, which provide everything from blocking and tracking to time management.
One of my long-standing favorites for a good blocking, monitoring and time management package is CyberPatrol from Surf Control which is available as a 14-day trial at www.cyberpatrol.com.
Not only can you limit time spent surfing per day, you can also control the actual times of the day that accessing the Internet is permitted (excellent for those with latchkey children who get home from school before mom and dad!).
CyberPatrol also can blacklist (not allowed ever) or white-list (always allowed) Web sites, block Web sites based on keywords, filter Web based chat, time restrict or totally block Instant Messaging and show you where your child has been on the Internet.
Instant messaging has become the communication method of choice for most teens but most parents don’t realize that 89 percent of solicitations occur in Instant Messages or chat rooms, according to the Pew Study.
The Youth and Society report found that 73 percent of exposures to inappropriate sites occurr while your child is searching on the Internet and less than half of them will disclose it to anyone.
Don’t make the classic mistake of allowing your child unfiltered, unsupervised Internet access in their own room.
Once the door is closed and locked, they are less likely to follow the rules that can be easily monitored if the computer is in an open visible space.
In most of the high-profile Internet child predator cases, the common element is that the child had unlimited time in their own room that allowed the predator to develop a relationship with the child without the knowledge of the parents.
We have posted a number of free resources at
www.datadoctors.com/parents including a Safe Surfing guide that is a great primer for parents who are still getting up to speed on this important issue.
The guide includes common warning signs, basic do’s and don’ts, an Internet and Chat lingo glossary and a Family Internet Use Contract so you can formally set guidelines with your children.