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Internet and Kids: How Young Is Too Young?

May 21, 2008
Are you a parent? If you are, you may be curious as to when children regularly start using the internet. In all honesty, you will find that it depends. There are some parents who start their children with using a computer and the internet right away and others wait until their children need to do so for school. So, how young is too young for your child to use the internet?

What many parents, especially first time parents, do not realize is that some elementary schools teach their children how to use a computer as young as first grade. Of course, they may not learn how to surf the internet, but they do often learn the basics. These basics may include learning how to type, how to turn on a computer, how to use a computer mouse, and so froth.

In keeping with young age, there are many parents who allow their toddlers and preschoolers to play computer games. Although software for those games can be purchased online or in most media stores, some parents turn to the internet. The good news about this approach is that many trusted websites, like those for Nick Jr, PBS Kids, and PlayHouse Disney do not have harmful advertisements on their websites that your child could accidentally click on.

Young elementary school children are also likely to use the internet and a computer in general to play computer games. Towards the fifth or sixth grade, children may start to use the internet to do research for school projects. This is when it is really important to start monitoring your child's use of the internet. Even if your child doesn't use online social networking websites, use internet chat rooms, or visit pornographic websites, it doesn't mean that they can't accidentally come across them. Some websites are not very careful with what advertisements they show.

Junior high school and high school students, honestly, need the most monitoring online. These are students who not only use the internet to research, but to communicate with their friends and to make new friends. Unfortunately, not all teenagers are educated on the dangers that lurk online, especially where internet chat rooms and social networking websites are concerned.

So, is your child ready to use a computer and the internet? As stated above, it is your decision to make. With that being said, be sure to use your best judgment and be sure to establish some firm ground rules. Children who are at least seven years of age should never be allowed to use a computer alone. Strict rules should be imposed for older children.

Speaking of internet safety rules, be sure to make your views on social networking websites and internet chat rooms clear. If you don't want your child to use them, state so. If they are allowed, establish rules. A few rules to get you started involve making a social networking website profiles private, not communicating directly with strangers, not trading personal information online, and not posting personal pictures or videos online.

As a reminder, you have the ability to determine when and where you child can access the internet. Just be sure that if you do allow your child to use the internet that you establish ground rules. Even toddlers and preschoolers should be able to follow these rules, such as only playing games on the website you get them set on.
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