Setting online boundaries for middle school kids


Did you know that in a 2009 study, 77% of 8- to 15-year-olds said they’d rather give up TV than give up the internet. However in the Norton Online Living Report, 1 in 5 children ages 8 to 17 said they do things online that their parents would not approve of.

In middle school, kids are beginning to interact with one another more and more online. They also may spend more time online for various school projects, researching for or even turning in assignments. Whether it’s through video chatting on Skype or social networking or instant messaging, many kids are well on their way to living a significant part of their after-school lives online.

Additionally, middle school kids may have a difficult time being wise online because by nature they are still prone to impulsive decisions, making it even more important for parents and pre-teens to communicate often about online activities.

Here are a few tips from on helping your middle schooler make safe and wise decisions online:

  • Visit age-appropriate sites. Find sites that promote learning, creativity, and that deepen your kids’ interests. Also check out popular web sites before your kids visit them. Despite what your kids might tell you, social networks like MySpace or Facebook are not meant for middle schoolers.
  • Minimize chatting with strangers. Tell your kids that people aren’t always who they say they are on the Internet. Anyone can pose as a “buddy of a buddy.” If kids are playing online games with people they don’t personally know, they should be careful not to disclose anything personal.
  • Help kids think critically about what they find online. Young people need to know not everything they see is true. You may wish to use safe-search settings or filtering software for younger kids. And you can always check browser histories to see where your kids have been.
  • If they wouldn’t do it in real life, they shouldn’t do it online. Remind them: Don’t say mean things, and don’t cheat in games or at school.
  • Have some rules about time and place. Set limits on the amount of time your kids spend online. Don’t let them Instant Message (IM) while doing homework. Restrict time and sites for online gaming.
  • Agree on downloads. What music is okay? Which video sites? Don’t just hand out your credit card information to your kids. If they need to buy something, you should be involved.
  • Talk about privacy. Remind your kids that when they post something online, they lose control of it. It can be cut and pasted and sent around the Web. Show kids where privacy settings are on their favorite sites and help them think about the settings they should use.
  • Make sure kids feel safe reporting bad behavior. It doesn’t have to be you, but if anything suspicious, mean, or scary happens, they need to know they won’t get in trouble if they tell a trusted adult.
  • Be involved and view your own habits carefully. Parents are their role models for safe and smart use. Enjoy the good stuff together!

What other tips would you add? Have you talked with your middle schooler about social networking yet? Check back next week for online safety tips for high schoolers.

Please click here for more information about talking to your middle schooler about internet safety and boundaries.

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