INTERNET USE AGREEMENTS
If you feel that youve already established clear-cut
rules with your kids about their Internet use, you might be surprised
at the results of a 2001 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and National
Public Radio. Three-fourths of parents interviewed said that they had
rules in place; only half of their children agreed.
One way to avoid misunderstandings is to create an explicit policy on
Internet behavior, also known as an acceptable use policy,
or AUP. AUPs are commonly used in schools,
where theyre almost always in writing and require the signatures
of both children and parents.
Although a use policy doesnt have to be in writing, rules on paper,
signed by both you and your child, can reinforce your general efforts,
as well as ensure that everyones clear on what constitutes acceptable
or unacceptable use of the Internet. (Remember, you must also be clear
on the consequences of breaking the agreement.)
A use policy should be tailored to the age, maturity
level, and particular
circumstances of a child. This might mean having to create
a separate agreement for each of your kids. Also, consider allowing your
children to participate in creating the policy so that they will be more
inclined to abide by it.
Topics to Address When Drafting a Policy
(You can build in more rules that you can find in Guidelines
- How long and under what circumstances
can your children use the Internet? For example,
an hour a day, but only after chores are completed.
- What content is allowed? Examples
of appropriate content include educational materials, reference Web
sites, news services, and so on. Revise the list as your children mature.
- What content is off-limits?
clear on whats objectionable. Some parents are concerned mostly
with sexually explicit Web sites; others, with sites about bomb making,
hate groups, violence, or religious cults.
- What kind of message traffic is OK?
Can your child use e-mail,
instant messaging, and chat
- What are your childs privacy rights?
Under what, if any, circumstances should you read
your childrens e-mail or know their passwords for online access?
- What should children do if they experience
something disturbing online? Be clear here,
but make children feel that they can come to you. Be fair, also, if
you determine that the off-limits content was accidentally accessed.
This is important if you want children to trust you.
- What offline, in-person activities are
allowed in connection with online activities? For
example, are children allowed face-to-face meetings with people they've
met online? Can they send money to Web companies? Do your kids need
your knowledge, approval, or presence to do any of these things?
- What happens if the rules are broken?
For a policy to do any good, it must be enforced. Be clear on the consequencesloss
of Internet privileges, grounding, and so onthat a child must
face if rules arent followed.