The internet is a mighty tool that exerts quite an impact on family life. Here are five simple tips for helping your family harness the internet’s power for good.
1. The internet (and all other technology) should serve your family and bring you closer together, not make your family its servant and drive you apart. Have a family meeting to share your values about internet usage. What’s OK to look at, share and research, and what’s not? Be clear and concrete. Don’t assume your kids know how you feel.
2. Develop and stick to a family internet contract. Decide who can use which devices, what constitutes appropriate content, when and where it’s acceptable to access that content and how you’ll monitor usage. Put your contract in writing, make sure everyone signs it and post it prominently.
3. Establish consequences, both positive and negative, for internet usage. Communicate those consequences clearly and often. Make sure to praise your kids when they’re using the internet in responsible, creative and helpful ways.
4. Help your children learn balance by establishing regular “technology-free” zones and times in your home. Instead of gluing yourselves to electronic devices, enjoy each other’s company and concentrate on face-to-face communication. Encourage reading, physical activity, board games and other “unplugged” leisure pursuits
5. Take advantage of parental controls and other resources that monitor internet usage, content and trends for you.
Remember, you’re not in this alone. Talk with family members and friends. Let them know about your family’s values for internet usage and ask how they handle this issue in their homes. Support each other in helping kids use the internet safely.
Laura Holmes Buddenberg joined Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home in January 2000. As a training manager at Boys Town, Buddenberg works as an administrator, writer and trainer, specializing in teen dating and relationships, media awareness, family spirituality, abuse and other issues affecting today’s families.