Spring break and the screen time balancing act
By KAREN MASON I
t’s spring break, and children are cele- brating! But this annual burst of free- dom for them brings with it an annual dilemma for parents: How to keep the
kids entertained, active and productively busy for two full weeks?
Of course there are visits with friends,
day camps and the occasional family swim. But there’s also downtime. And whether they’re downloading apps on their iPod Touch or playing games on the family computer, chances are good many kids will spend at least part of their March break online. So how can busy parents ensure their children are being good digital citizens and staying safe?
Educate yourself and your kids Whether the topic is protecting pass-
words and other personal information, websites that are appropriate for your child’s age and developmental stage, or protection from bullies and other online threats, it pays to do your research. Check out netsmartz.org
for resources. Establish rules
Whether you run your home with mili-
tary precision or take a less regimented approach, establishing rules around the use of technology is essential when it comes to managing your child’s time on- line.
Do you prefer your children go online only at certain times of the day? Are there particular websites they may, and may not, visit? Once you’ve done your research and determined what will work best for you, consider having everyone sign a family contract.
. Use tools Depending on your child’s age and ma-
turity level, you may also want to consider technological tools to help manage their time and activity online. There’s a wide range of commercially available monitor- ing filters and controls designed to pro- vide parents extra peace of mind. Some websites even offer their own. In the popular virtual world of Disney Club Penguin, for example, special tools allow parents to review their child’s ac- count history, including any bans for inap- propriate comments or behaviour, and set a timer to manage the time of day and
duration of their child’s visits to the snow- covered virtual world. To find out more, or to create a parent account on Club Penguin, visit https://secure.clubpenguin.com/
Karen Mason is the Parent Communications Manager for Disney Online Studios, which produces the No.1 virtual world for children, Club Penguin.
Screen time management tips
• Educate yourself • Teach your kids • Do your research • Establish rules for internet use • Create a family contract. See a good
example at safekids.com/contract.htm
• Use filtering/monitoring software • Set a timer • Keep computers in common areas
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