Kids often gravitate to the computer to play games, watch videos, interact socially and learn from informational websites. If you allow your kids to have unsupervised computer access, your children encounter specific risks and potential harm. Once you understand the risks and dangers, take steps to create a safe environment for kids who use the computer in your home.
When children use the computer unsupervised, they might share personal information with people they shouldn't. The risks associated with sharing personal information include revealing identifiable information that could provide criminals with the child’s location, according to the city of Elmhurst, Illinois, website. Knowing this personal information, a criminal could gain access to the child and either abduct or assault her. It’s also possible that children could share financial information online by sharing access to financial accounts or by sharing a parent’s credit card number.
The Internet contains images that a child might access during unsupervised computer time, warns the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. Children might learn about objectionable activities and information through Internet searches. Left alone with the computer, a child could find sexual or violent content. The Internet also contains extensive information about dangerous and illegal activities.
Cyberbullying involves online harassment, and it might occur in Internet chat rooms, on social media websites and through email or text messaging, according to the PBS Parents website. With unsupervised computer time, a child might become the bully and begin inflicting harassing and humiliating treatment on peers. Your child might also become the victim if he receives these hurtful messages via the computer.
If children sit at a computer improperly or for too long, they could develop “computer vision syndrome,” according to the All About Vision website. The excessive focusing required of the eyes to focus on a computer monitor might cause fatigue that could lead to eye strain and “myopia” -- also called nearsightedness. It’s likely that without parental supervision, a child will not sit at a computer with his head aligned, back straight, arms relaxed and feet flat on the floor or resting on a foot stool. It’s also important for children to take frequent breaks to rest and refocus the eyes, approximately every 20 minutes.
Keep your computer in a common area of your home to ensure that you have constant supervision of your children’s computer activities. Stay engaged with your children, interacting with them as they use the computer. Talk about their activities on the computer so you understand what they’re doing. Watch your children’s physical positions while using the computer to ensure they sit properly to minimize eye and body strain. Institute limits on computer use for both the activities performed and the time spent.