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The Internet Today
Pornography and Predators: Basic Facts/ Legal Issues
How Pornography and Predators Reach Kids
How Can I Protect My Child
A Resource For Parents home National Academies Site Map

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Adults often assume that their children use the Internet in the same way they themselves do. But the truth is that, while we shop, bank, and catch up on the news online, kids are gaming, downloading homework help, and just plain socializing. It’s important to understand your child’s Internet habits.

Why Do Kids Surf?
Where Do Kids Surf?
How Often Do Kids Surf?

Why Do Kids Surf?
Children use the Internet in different ways and for different reasons, depending on their age and particular circumstances and interests. Although children as young as two or three can be introduced to the computer, many kids are about seven or eight when they begin to enjoy the Internet on a more practical level, through activities such as searching online encyclopedias, downloading pictures for school reports, or writing to pen pals.

Young adolescents can benefit from more-sophisticated Web resources, accessing everything from the Library of Congress’s collection to magazines and newspapers to archives from around the world. Older adolescents find the Internet a rich resource of information about job opportunities, internships, and colleges; software tools to create multimedia reports; and specialized help with foreign languages and other school subjects.

Parents should be aware, however, that, whereas most adults use the Internet primarily for work-related activities, adolescents in the U.S., in general, use it primarily for entertainment and socialization purposes. For them, the Internet is both a popular communication tool, like the telephone, and a familiar community environment, like the mall or a movie theater, where kids can develop their identities, join youth subcultures, relieve boredom, or cope with emotional issues or other personal concerns.

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Where Do Kids Surf?
If you want to protect your child against Internet threats, you must remember that kids can reach the Web from many places. Home, school, and public libraries are perhaps the most common, but there are other locations as well:

  • At a friend’s house, where rules and supervision might not match those at your home.
  • Internet cafes, which are open to anyone willing to pay the hourly access fee.
  • Museums (especially those with after-school or weekend programs), which operate under less stringent rules than do libraries or schools.
  • After-school programs and other community-based programs.
  • Commercial establishments that provide Internet access, such as coffee shops, department stores, or fast-food restaurants. (Some establishments provide access free to anyone with the proper equipment, such as a laptop with wireless connection.)

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How Often Do Kids Surf?
In one survey, more than 76 percent of kids said they had used the Internet in the week before being interviewed, with an overall average use rate of three to four times a week. The time spent online was an hour or less for 61 percent of the kids interviewed, with another 26 percent spending one to two hours online on a typical day.

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