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Internet and Kids – How Young is Too Young?

It is interesting to note that there is something amazingly unique about today’s children. Young children nowadays are growing up in an environment where internet use is the rule, not the exception. How young is too young to allow your child to use the internet? This is a very good question that I know most parents are asking themselves. If you, as a parent, are asking that also, you will see that the answer is most likely a matter of the parent’s personal preference. There are parents who expose their children to computers and the internet at a very young age, while there are others who wait until their children need to do so for school.

Some elementary schools teach children as young as first grade how to use a computer, and many parents, especially first time parents, are not aware of this. Computers and internet access are becoming increasingly available in schools, and more young children are getting exposed to computers in their classrooms. These young children may not learn how to browse the internet yet, but they do often learn the basics. And these include learning how to type, how to turn a computer on and off, how to use a computer mouse, and so on.

Many parents allow their toddlers and preschoolers to play educational games on the computer. Parents usually get the software for these games online, rather than go to media stores. Fortunately, most websites do not display harmful advertisements on their web page that your child could accidentally click on.

Elementary school children usually use a computer and the internet to play games, though towards the fifth or sixth grade, they may start to utilize the internet to do get their school projects done. This is when you as a parent should start to keep track of your child’s internet use. Your child may not use social networking websites, join internet chat rooms, or visit pornographic websites at this age, it doesn’t automatically mean they can’t innocently come across them. Some so-called child-friendly websites are not careful enough to filter advertisements that may show content offensive to very young children.

If you have a child in junior high school, then you need to be very vigilant at all times when they go online because they are the ones who need the most monitoring online. Kids this age are a social bunch of curious and excitement seeking individuals and though they may appear to use the internet for their school projects, you cannot prevent them from communicating with their friends and even making new ones online. All teenagers are exposed to the same internet dangers but most of them are not aware of the real danger that festers around social networking websites like MySpace and internet chat rooms.

Now, let’s go back to the original question. How young is too young to allow your child to use the internet? Do you feel your child is ready to use a computer and the internet? As previously stated, only you, the parent, can decide if and when you think your child is ready enough to use the internet. That said, it is important that you use your best judgment when you allow your young child to go online and do not forget to set up rules for your child to observe. Always have someone older to watch over your child as they use the internet. They should never be allowed to browse websites online all by themselves because you never know what types of websites they could accidentally click on and visit.

Talking about internet safety rules, make it certain that your child knows exactly what your views are with regards to social networking websites and internet chat rooms. If you do not feel comfortable about your child using social networking websites, you should tell your child why. If you do allow it, you should establish clear rules. These rules should include asking your child to make their social networking profiles not publicly viewable, never to communicate directly with strangers online, even to those who appear to be super friendly, not to exchange personal details online, and not to post pictures or videos on any websites online.

Your child’s passport to use the internet lies within your hands. Just be sure to implement clear-cut rules so that you can prevent exposing your child to internet dangers. Even children as young as toddlers and preschoolers should be able to follow these rules that you have set up, such as playing games only on websites you deem safe and kid-friendly.

While there is no hard and fast rule as to how young is too young for your child to use the internet, you should use your best judgment in making a decision for your child.