Technology, Children, and the Internet

By Nadja Reilly, PhD, Associate Director of the Richard I. and Joan L. Freedman Center for Child and Family Development October 05, 2015

Nadja Reilly, PhD, Associate Director of the Richard I. and Joan L. Freedman Center for Child and Family Development

A recent national survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 8-18 year-olds spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using media across a typical day. This includes using the internet for educational, social, and entertainment purposes. Given the easy access to the internet via smart phones, tablets, and computers, as well as the frequency with which children are connected, it is important to help children navigate these media safely.

Tips for Understanding Children’s Use of the Internet

  • Have the computer in an open place where you can see what your child is doing. 
  • Talk to your child about safe internet use. Emphasize how personal information like phone number, address, or passwords should never be shared with anyone. 
  • Consider having rules requiring computers or cell phones to be put away at night to ensure your child is getting adequate sleep. 
  • Watch or read content with your child and have conversations about its meaning and appropriateness. Help your child define his/her values and empower him/her to feel confident about walking away from things that feel uncomfortable. 
  • Understanding what your child is doing online can be a great opportunity to learn more about your child and what he or she is interested in. Ask your child questions such as: What are you playing? Will you show me how to do it? What do you like about it? Do you get to talk to other kids? What do you do if you don’t like something you see or hear? 
  • For school aged children, an increasing amount of learning is taking place online, whether through cooperative learning sites or through accessing books online. Support their learning by asking about what they learn, and how they use that information. 
  • For tweens and teens, the internet can be used for school work, but also for socializing. This is an important time to emphasize safe and responsible use. Remind them that what is posted can be seen or used by anyone, and think together about potential consequences of different online behavior. This is a great time to empower your child to make appropriate decisions and to problem solve together. 
  • Ask children about online bullying and talk with them about how to respond. 
  • Help your child learn how to balance the use of media, in all forms, and how to “disconnect.” Model for them that it is ok to be offline and take breaks from all the immediate and sometimes overwhelming amount of information we get daily.