Computers are an integral part of our kids’ educations these days. The schools in many districts have extensive networked computer systems, often with the latest hardware and software, even at the grade school level. Our kids’ assignments increasingly require computing resources.
At my home, we all have our own computers with broadband network access. Anything less would require frequent trips to the local library to use the computers there. Having our own computers and home network is a huge time saver.
But there is a big downside to immediate computer access. Social networking, gaming sites, video sites, instant messaging, and even common email are powerful forces for distraction which can erode our kids’ focus on their homework. So what’s a parent to do? Below are 5 tips that will help you minimize their exposure to Internet distractions and keep them focused on their work.
1. Know what your kids are really doing with their computers while they are supposed to be doing their homework.
Your son or daughter is busily working away at his or her computer. Then you walk into their room and a window that was open on the computer screen, which you didn’t quite see, is suddenly closed. Has this happened to you?
It’s happened at my house many times. When it does, my wife and I immediately find out what our son or daughter was up to. But rather than criticize them, we point out that they have a responsibility to themselves to use their time wisely and not fool around with time-wasting activities on the Internet.
By using this approach, we are letting them know that we are watching them but also that we are placing trust in them to do the right thing. I’ve said it before, active involvement in your kids’ lives, academic and otherwise, is the best way to make sure they stay on the straight and narrow.
2. Use parental controls in Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security to block your kids’ access to distracting websites.
Tip 1 is fine for middle and high schoolers, but younger kids may have trouble grasping what you are saying. They are less mature and should not be exposed to some sites that older kids are better equipped to handle emotionally.
Alternatively, you may have a persistent teenager who nods his or her head “yes” when you talk to them, but then goes right back to compulsively horsing around as soon as you leave the room.
In cases like this, Trend Micro™ Titanium™ Maximum Security can help. Titanium provides a rich set of parental controls that you can use to prevent your kids from browsing to sites that you find objectionable for whatever reason. I covered how to use these controls in a recent “Ask Vic” post.
When using Titanium, you should set a password to its parental control panel that only you know about and use so that your child can’t undo the controls you have put in place.
3. Use Trend Micro Online Guardian for Familes to block your kids’ access to distracting websites.
Another great tool for controlling your kids’ Internet access is Trend Micro™ Online Guardian for Familes™. Online Guardian enables you to control the access of multiple computers on your home network to the Internet from a browser on a single computer.
4. Set up URL filtering rules or just turn off Internet access for your kids’ computers on your home network router.
Many home networks have shared Internet access through a cable or DSL router device. All the routers that I know about have a mechanism to turn off Internet access for one or more computers on your network. Some also offer URL blocking so that you can prevent select computers from access websites that you enter in the URL block list while still maintaining all other Internet connectivity.
Controlling your router usually involves navigating to a URL that the device supports and configuring it in one or more browser screens. Blocking individual computers and groups of URLs requires some knowledge of TCP/IP addressing and ports, so this approach may not be right for the technically faint of heart.
5. When your kids complain about any of the previous tips you may have taken, be prepared to explain to them why they are necessary.
Let’s face it, the suggestions I’ve made here are very intrusive and your kids are not going to like them. After all, we didn’t like it when our parents put restrictions on us even when it was for our own good.
Be prepared to handle complaints from your child with understanding, firmness, and sound reasoning. If you feel they have an attention problem when it comes to homework, then you need to be honest with them about your concerns and explain why free reign on the Internet is not so good for people with limited attention spans.
When you have to restrict where you kids go on the Internet, you can reward them for putting up with the controls I’ve mentioned and diligently doing their homework with some free Internet time over an expanded range of URLs. Or if you have Netflix or some other movie service, reward them with an extra online movie once and awhile.
As you apply these techniques, over time your kids will learn how to conduct themselves responsibly and safely on the Internet. Maybe they’ll even realize that you did these things because you care about them a lot.
I work for Trend Micro and all opinions expressed here are my own.