How can parents decide when it is safe, and wise, to allow their children to have their own laptop or desktop computer? Why should children have their own system? What are the costs, the benefits, the drawbacks, and the dangers?
Should your child have their own Computer System? It’s a tough call. Many families have a Computer System of some sort in the home. Over 70% of families with children under 18 have a computer and most of these have internet access. Children also have access to computers in libraries and at school, amongst other places.
Most parents realize that children need to have some supervision and parental control when accessing the internet. Many choose to use a software program to restrict access to sites. One of the biggest dangers online is that predators have easy access to children and teens, and may themselves pose as someone much younger than they are. Facebook has set a rule of 13 and over for Facebook accounts, for this very reason. (Even though many otherwise strict parents do not enforce this rule with their children.)
If your child is sharing your Computer System, there will come a time when they want their own so that they can close their bedroom doors, lay comfortably on their bed, and play their music louder, and spend more of their own time online, browsing what they would like to. And, chances are, a huge part of your mind will be siding with them! How nice to have your own system back to yourself, so that you can browse where YOU want, listen to the music YOU want, and just have the luxury of having it all to yourself, with no need for homework schedules, etc. But there is much to consider beyond the actual cost. A Laptop is probably the most practical choice, so that your child can use their system portably. Cost is a factor, but payment plans such as rent to own or lease to own computers can help make the costs manageable.
The real issue is that once your child has their own system, you lose some of the control. It’s best to have clear communication about what is expected, tolerated, and not allowed on any computer, long before your child is allowed to have their own system. It is imperative that your child understands the very real dangers to be found on chat and forums, and that they clear all sites and memberships with you before joining, up to a certain age that you feel comfortable with their decision making. Privacy is always an issue with teens, but personally I feel that a teenager needs to understand and agree that although you won’t pry into every correspondence they make, you will be able to access their browsing history and facebook page until they are legally adults. This needs to be explained from a safety standpoint, first and foremost.
Computers certainly enhance our lives in many beneficial ways, and allowing your child to have their own system can be an advantage for everyone. Just make sure that you all agree to some ground rules beforehand, and that everyone stays safe!