Monday, January 14, 2013

PARENTS: Computer Use Contract

A lot of kids NEED a personal laptop in order to get their school work done.  Okay, they don't.  But they sure want one!  And they sure want the privacy of using it in their bedrooms.  The problem is that no matter how mature your child may seem, the reasoning part of his/her brain isn't fully developed until about the age of 25.  This means that kids don't always have the ability to predict certain consequences of their actions.  They also have a much smaller world view than adults and don't realize that the internet is an open door to people with whom they should not be friendly.  Satan loves the internet because it is so easy to hide there.

We don't want kids to be afraid of the internet and it's great to be able to provide them with all these electronics but we do need to teach them to be wise and more than that, we want them to feel that they can approach us when something inappropriate or harmful happens online.  Many families have a "family computer" that is in a public place such as the family room where kids can get their work done and parents can keep an eye on the sites the kids are using and their social media activity.  Many others, however, want to provide their kids with a computer in their bedroom or a personal laptop.  Being allowed the private use of a computer comes with responsibility.  Letting kids use a computer privately may be extremely convenient but here are some interesting facts:
  • The majority of parents have no idea what their teenagers see, read, and/or type in chat rooms or via instant messaging or email.  Nor do they know what videos or photos are uploaded.
  • Over half of teenagers have received requests for personal information online. 
  • 42% said they have posted personal information online.  Many don't even realize that the information they post is considered personal or understand how it can be used.
  • Over half have had private conversations with online strangers through instant messaging.
  • 70% of children have encountered pornography accidentally and even more than that receive inappropriate spam messages.
  • 1 out of 5 teenagers has been solicited sexually online!
  • 75% of teens who received an online sexual solicitation DID NOT TELL A PARENT, many out of concern that they might lose their internet privileges.
  • 1 in 3 have experienced online harassment or cyber-bullying.

Many parents have created their own set of rules and keep a good handle on the household rules regarding computer use but in order to help those parents show kids how serious they are about keeping them safe from online harm, I've created a FAMILY COMPUTER PRIVACY CONTRACT to help them set appropriate boundaries with their kids for the use of a private computer.  There are a few rules that won't apply to some families so I left it a Word document so it can be adjusted.  Feel free to share it with the parents of your middle and high school youth and anybody else who might find it beneficial.  Also, if necessary, feel free to adapt it for church use if you allow kids on-site internet access for homework clubs, etc.

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