If you are close to a young person with Attention Deficit Disorder, you don’t need me to tell you that this kid is energetic, curious, and creative. These kids are constantly exploring the world around them, looking for explanations, experiences and adventure. The internet is a magnet for children with ADD/ADHD. Don’t let it pull them into dangerous situations.
Since you are reading this, I am going to believe that you are computer literate. After all, this is an online magazine. Your young person has some access to computers. Many parents are uncomfortable about limiting their child’s freedoms. Hopefully, you already have computer rules in place. Here are a group of policies that I feel are important to help keep your child internet-safe.
First, be explicit. Your child has no expectation of privacy in this area of his life. Anything that your child does on the computer should be subject to your examination. This needs to be a prerequisite to using a computer in your household. Computer use needs to be physically monitored. A computer should only be used in a high-traffic public area of your home. This means your child should not have a computer in his room or access to one in a low-traffic area of the home. There are programs that allow you to monitor and block usage. Find a program that fits your family’s lifestyle and install it.
Don’t allow your child to use a computer with a web cam. A few years ago, a national science magazine showed a really cool web camera. It was touted as a way for a kid to engage in face-to-face internet interaction with his friends. The web cam was aimed at the 8-12 year-old set. I don’t think the manufacturer appreciated my point of view. This webcam was practically screaming, “Stranger, come into my child’s room!” Children with ADD are impulsive, and they don’t understand that people who they have “chatted” with over several weeks are still strangers. Also, kid’s rooms and clothing give clues to where they live. You do not want a stranger knowing where your child goes to school. It does not hurt to remind your child to give no information about himself to anybody over the internet. Do this often.
Show your child how predators find information. Google yourself. Use the free feature of Intelius or another online information gathering system. Demonstrate how a person who has your address can get turn-by-turn instructions to your home using any number of free internet map services.
Use your local news to find stories about predators who have tricked children into believing that they are “friends.” Many times these adults create a profile that is the same age as the child. Local news stories are full of examples of this. Make sure that your child has some real-life examples. If kids read about these predators in their home town, they are more likely to believe that they really exist. Stranger danger is real!
I don’t believe that children should do social networking. Social networking has too many opportunities for abuse. There can be chances for inappropriate “friending.” The national news is full of stories about cyber bullying. Many children, especially children with ADD who have problems with decision making, should not be involved in social networking.
Be vigilant. Monitor your child’s usage on a daily basis. You need to search for pictures. Check the computer’s history. At least several times per week, find out what your child is saving to the computer. Make sure that your child knows that nothing he does on the computer is private. You have the right to inspect everything. Your child’s safety depends on it.
For a young child, a video might be worth a hundred lectures. This DVD uses humor to teach the serious safety issues of the internet.
The Safe Side - Internet Safety
A short article on internet safety can only go so far in alerting you to the many dangerous possibilities that children may face on the internet. This book is an excellent resource to help protect your child.
Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens: Helping Young People Learn To Use the Internet Safely and Responsibly