Kids and Myspace
Mind Matters: Monitor what kids do online
University of New Mexico: What is the primary risk to kids with unrestricted access to the World Wide Web?
John Thurman: There are a lot of places your kids don't need to go via the Web that are very adult-oriented. Your child's safety is key. Kids flat-out shouldn't have unrestricted access, as there are predators on the Internet. Many of these are sexual predators surfing Web sites and chat rooms, and given too much information, they literally can show up at your door.
UNM: How can parents restrict access?
Thurman: First, pull the computer from your child's room. It should be in a place where what they're doing is easily monitored.
UNM: How might parents monitor activity?
Thurman: Parents need to be parents. They need to monitor their kid's Internet use by both physically sitting in the room with a clock and by observing how the child is doing behaviorally. Be aware of your kids: Walk in on them unexpectedly when they're using the computer and see how they react. Too many parents think their kids won't go to adult Web sites - find out.
UNM: How much time should kids be spending on the Internet?
Thurman: Just like with TV, your kids can spend too much time on the computer. As a general rule, if the computer is taking away from family time, or you just sense it's too much, then speak to them about it. If they're on it too much, they'll express very loudly their opposition. If you think they've been on the Web too much, they probably have.
UNM: What about chat rooms? Are there some that appear to be safer than others?
Thurman: With a lot of youth-oriented chat rooms, there are predators who are not of age. And there are good chat rooms, too. You'll know what your child is doing if you periodically walk in on them unannounced. Your kids won't react negatively if they're on an appropriate site. As parents, you have to know what's going on; don't blindly trust your child. They haven't yet formulated good judgment and they know how to get around you. Parents have to step it up a notch and really be involved.
Thurman is a private practitioner in Albuquerque specializing in adolescent and parental counseling, as well as individual therapy. Mind Matters runs every other Monday. Have a question about mental health? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was published in the Albuquerque Tribune in July 2006