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How Connected Should Our Children Be?

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Recent studies indicate that only around eleven percent of American children, from ages eight on up, do NOT possess a mobile device that allows them to connect with their parents/caregivers at any time, or do not have regular access to such a device. The same holds true for internet access from smartphones, tablets, iPads, and laptops or Chromebooks. It’s everywhere, it’s available, it’s cheap or free, and while parents and caregivers are providing it to their kids they are beginning to feel conflicted about the whole thing.

Do children have the right to internet connections?

This is the question that plagues parents the length and breadth of America. Should their children have access to devices that would allow them to stay in touch in case of an emergency or other urgent situation? And if they should, how much access should they be granted? For most families price is no longer an issue -- technology has lowered the purchase price of most connecting devices so that even a family of moderate means can keep all their children connected if they so choose.

But in many parenting circles today mothers and fathers express concern that their children have come to rely too heavily on things like smartphones and iPads -- that they take these things for granted and, in some extreme cases, have even become addicted to their social media links and are abusing their health online.

Where should parents draw the line? Many child experts draw the analogy between today’s easy access of internet devices for young people and the easy availability of automobiles in the early 1950’s for teenagers. While it was pleasant to be able to send Suzy to the store for bread and milk, her parents worried that she might drive recklessly or make unnecessary and questionable social stops on the way to the store and back. The answer in most households boiled down to common sense negotiations: As long as Suzy or Tommy drove responsibly and contributed to the expense involved, they could have the car for their own use at certain designated times, or even buy one for themselves if they could save up the money. So it was controlled on a case by case basis -- responsible teenagers had plenty of freedom with the car, while teenagers who abused the privilege were denied access without some kind of external control in place.

Before children today are granted access to the internet and given connection devices like iPads and tablets, parents and caregivers should make certain that the children understand the duties and responsibilities involved with internet access. Once expectations are clearly explained and set in place, it should be a simple matter to monitor a child’s compliance -- using gps tracking technology and other basic spyware.

This is where tools like WebSafety come in. Technology is going to be a growing part of your family’s life. WebSafety monitors their location, the information they are sharing and the information that is coming in, while giving you a daily and weekly report. It is another pair of eyes and ears, supplementing the concern that every parent already feels for their children.

Children who go by the book can be rewarded with more and more internet freedom, while those who want to push the envelope should discover that their access is cut off and won’t be restored until they show more mature behavior.

It’s not rocket science, but it is an effective way to bring children into the internet age without injuring or blunting their sensitive natures.

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