Get on line with your kids!

A friend phoned the other day and asked how much time I allowed my 5 girls to spend online, each day.

Another, wanted to know how I controlled facebook.

And my second eldest step-daughter has asked for the hundredth time to have wireless access in her room.

The forces have aligned, so I’ve taken it as a sign to tackle this internet issue.

First there was MSN; I still don’t know what that was or did.

Then facebook; I’m on it!

Before, in-between and I’m sure a whole lot after, there’s a tide of technology that parents have to ride.

And if you don’t wade in when it first starts to swell, like a tsunami you’ll be wiped out of that contact with, and control of, your kids.

Sorry about all the ocean metaphors but I think you get my drift.

When we blended, my husband and I both sold our homes and built a new one together.

There were a few must-haves that the builder and architect had to accommodate.

Each of the girls had to have their own room, as I was pretty sure all of us would need a time-out sanctuary AND the computer area had to be near the kitchen and in eye-sight.

As a television news journalist previously (pre the step mum) I had reported on stories covering topics from the frightening, such as cyber bullying and internet predators to the more social, such as loss of time with your teens.

So I was pretty determined to be, if not one step ahead, then at least walking beside my kids when it came to the computers.

There was to be absolutely NO internet in the bedrooms.

They had to be my friend on facebook until they were 18, or no facebook.

They were only allowed on facebook on the weeekends; Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

They would have lock-out times, so they couldn’t get on before school or after 9 0’clock at night. Of course I could log them on if they wanted more time for homework as they got older.

And they were only allowed on the internet for two hours a day, three on weekends and that included homework. Of course if they used all that up for homework and needed more for study, it was never a problem.

If on the other hand the time was chewed up on facebook or Ocean Up (parents of teen girls know this one is top heavy in Justin Beiber content), any homework would have to be handwritten then re-done the next day; and any research would have to conducted the old fashioned way, by opening a book.

Now you may think I had these girls completely under my cursor.

I thought I did too for a while, so here’s where my tips come in.

Children are sneaky little creatures, especially when it comes to the computer.

The now 18 year old step-daughter, who wants wireless in her room for university study, has had to earn back a lot of internet trust.

At 14, she and her older sister worked out my password for wireless and while I thought they were being studious and avoiding the perils of the internet, they were in fact, sitting in their rooms watching you tube and on facebook.

This, while allowing the family’s unlimited access to slow to almost paralysed levels and allowing the three younger girls to be banned from the internet.

I believed it just had to be the three youngest using it up, as the other two were studying so hard.

There were consequences, once I discovered the cyber heist, three months later.

There are plenty of other incidents where my uptake was slow.

You can be on facebook and friends (me) don’t know.

You can download and watch later.

You can share your time with your sister to watch an episode of Miley Cyrus and still get homework done on the computer.

You can use a laptop and plug into the internet without affecting your allocated computer time.

I’m sure there’s more that I still haven’t clued to. ( If so, secretly I’m happy they are using their initiative, a word I throw out a lot in this house)

BUT, Can you imagine how hopeless I would be if I didn’t have any of the above rules in place.

Hint, If you have an inkling that the kids may be routing your rules, they probably are.

The bottom line though is, most of them work most of the time and it achieved my primary goal which was to keep the kids in family contact.

Even if they were on the computer they were in reach. They would communicate in some form; a grunt is something I suppose.

They would ask for help with homework, they would show me a funny clip on you tube or they would just yell out their opinion when another conversation piqued their interest.  Reverse proof was during the great teen wireless swindle of four years ago, when I never saw the older two.

So as to the question of whether to allow the bedroom access?

It’s time.

As the saying goes there comes a moment in a parent’s life when you have to let go and trust them.

Trust them to work out that they’ve been online long enough. Trust them to know if someone dodgy contacts them. Trust them, not to look on unacceptable sites. Trust them to share and be fair with the internet allocations. Trust them to stay in touch with the rest of the family.

She’s now 18 and according to the family’s computer rules doesn’t have to be my facebook friend, but still she chooses to be.

So even if she stays in her room longer than I’d like at least I can talk to her online.

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