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How can I Protect My Child?

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Age-Based Tips for Internet Use
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Here are some guidelines on tailoring your children’s Internet activities based on their ages. You might also want to get a better idea of how your children process information at different ages by checking out the developmental chart in Understanding Maturity and Vulnerability.

Ages 2 to 3 Years
Ages 4 to 7 Years
Ages 8 to 11 Years
Ages 12 to 14 Years
Ages 15 to 18 Years

Ages 2 to 3 Years

  • Put your child in your lap as you “play” together on the computer.
  • Look for books and children’s video programs that show children and family members using computers.

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Ages 4 to 7 Years

  • Spend as much time as you can with your children while they use the computer.
  • Show children tangible examples of achievement on the computer, such as printouts of their work.
  • Share an e-mail address with your child, so that you can oversee and discuss correspondence.

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Ages 8 to 11 Years

  • Set clear rules for online use and outline the consequences of breaking them.
  • Teach children to alert you if they encounter anything scary or unusual online.
  • Discuss unique aspects of cyberspace behavior, such as anonymity, and what they mean for your child and for others.

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Ages 12 to 14 Years

  • Because children of this age are more likely to explore on their own, set clear rules, limits, and periodic check-ins.
  • Clarify which kinds of chat rooms are acceptable and how much time your children can spend in them.
  • Make sure children understand their recourse in case they are harassed online or experience something inappropriate.
  • Pay particular attention to games that your teenager might download or copy, because some of these games are extremely violent.

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Ages 15 to 18 Years

  • Ask your teen to help you research topics of family interest, such as following up on a group discussion or planning a family vacation.
  • Talk to your teen about new things online and encourage discussion of new experiences.
  • Make sure your teen knows the legal implications of online behavior.
  • Set time limits for Internet use to ensure that your teen pursues a well-balanced set of activities.
  • If your teen is especially interested in computers, encourage him or her to help younger children with their online explorations, emphasizing your teen’s responsibility to ensure the younger child isn’t exposed to inappropriate materials.

Adapted from The Parent’s Guide to the Information Superhighway (Wendy Lazarus and Laurie Lipper, The Children’s Partnership, May 1998). A complete copy of the guide is available at

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