Guidelines for Children's Internet Usage

Published 12/05/2004 16:25   |    Updated 23/04/2008 11:45

What are some suitable guidelines for children using the Internet?

You need to set down ground rules for your children's use of the Internet. This will establish boundaries and help children understand the reasons why these rules exist so that they can take responsibility for their own actions and develop their own sense of judgement.


We suggest that you:

  • Set limits on when they can use the computer and for how long.
  • Agree what types of sites are good to visit and which are not.
  • Encourage them to come to you if anything online makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened.
  • Make it very clear that they must not give out personal information without your permission. In particular, addresses, phone numbers, school details, passwords or pictures. Take care to limit children's access to credit card and bank information.
  • Warn them to be careful about giving away their email address in chat rooms or when registering for sites.
  • Forbid them to meet anyone in person that they encounter online without your consent or without you or a responsible adult present.
  • Agree what types of sites are good to access and which are not; for example you can make a policy of not allowing them to use un-moderated chat rooms or to use file sharing programs.

  • Restrict their ability to download software, music or other files without your permission.
  • Agree whether (or not) they are allowed to spend money online. Although you might not give them your credit card, if you have already stored your details at an online store it may be easy for children to spend your money if you don't take steps to limit their access or agree ground rules.
  • Explain what viruses and spyware are, what you are doing to prevent them and ask them to come to you if they get an alert while online.
  • Research age-appropriate Internet sites that you can suggest to your children.
  • Take extra steps to protect younger kids. Keep the computer in an open area like the kitchen or family room, so you can keep an eye on what your kids are doing online. Use the Internet with them to help develop safe surfing habits. Consider taking advantage of parental control features on some operating systems that let you manage your kids' computer use, including what sites they can visit, whether they can download items, or what time of day they can be online.


Discussion points
It is important that children understand the nature of the Internet. Talk to them about the following:

  • People online are not necessarily who they say they are and bad people can sometimes appear friendly and trustworthy.
  • How to weigh up information found online and how to spot the difference between fact and opinion.
  • The nature of Internet piracy - downloading music, television, films, games and other software.
  • How you expect your children to behave towards other people while they are online. Explain that gossiping, bullying etc. are unacceptable.
  • Talk to your kids about online pornography and direct them to good, age-appropriate sites about relationships and sexuality.
  • Go where your kids go online. Sign up for - and use - the social networking spaces that your kids visit. Let them know that you're there, and help teach them how to act as they socialise online.


Monitoring children's behaviour online

  • For younger children, always sit with them while they are online.
  • Ask your children to share all their online user names and passwords with you.
  • Set your web browser to limit access to inappropriate content. For example, to do this in Microsoft ® Internet Explorer: go to the Tools menu and click Internet Options. Select the Content tab and then click Enable under Content Advisor.
  • Encourage your children to share their Internet experience with you and make it a shared family experience.
  • Put the computer in an open area in the home rather than in their bedrooms.
  • Consider installing Internet monitoring software to track what they do online.
  • Consider installing Internet filtering software that may block access to some unacceptable sites or only allow access to sites you have approved.

  • Ensure that your children use only monitored chat rooms on reputable kids' sites.
  • Set up a limited user account on the family computer that restricts what they can do without your permission.
  • Don't rely on a single technical solution. Supervision and education are also part of good parenting.
  • Use an up-to-date web browser with a built-in pop-up filter to prevent unwanted adverts appearing onscreen.
  • Set your web browsers to start up with a web page that points to a child-friendly home page. For example, in Microsoft ® Internet Explorer go to the Tools menu, select Internet Options. On the General tab, under Home page, type the address of the chosen site.


See also: Examples of kid friendly websites and a Guide to Social Networking sites such as Bebo


Please tell us how we can make this answer more useful.