Healthy Kids     K-12    

When it comes to internet dangers, keep an eye on your child

Should parents track their child's internet usage?


    There are many inadvertent dangers on the internet. An adolescent looking for school information may be sent to a site with explicit sexual information. Frequently an innocuous search word will bring up one of the thousands of pornographic websites presenting images and information that can confuse an adolescent’s ideas about sexuality and relationships.

    A powerful tool for accessing information, the internet can also direct an adolescent to sites that reinforce and support unhealthy behavior. There are web sites that provide information on how to hide an eating disorder or self-injurious behavior such as cutting from parents, as well as sites on drug use and drug use devices.

    There are also hundreds of websites that introduce adolescents to such topics as self-starvation, mutilation, racism and violent sex, as well as gambling sites, all accessible to teens.

Socialization on the internet, as mentioned, can be an excellent adjunct for the healthy development of social skills in adolescence. However, the internet can also be a substitute for what an adolescent doesn’t find in real life.


READ MORE: Keep kids safe online

Substitute for reality


    Socially anxious teens may be helped by forming online friendships; they may go too far, relying on their online friendships to the exclusion of real life friends, becoming further socially isolated from reality. They can create any image of themselves without the benefit of social feedback.

    As with adults, teens can also become addicted to the internet. It can keep kids away from other healthy outlets, especially physical activity and face-to-face social interactions.

Cyber bullying has also become an increasing problem among adolescents. Cyber bullying is where a teen bullies another by spreading rumors or insults by means of text messages or e-mails, or posts embarrassing pictures or videos of the victim.


READ MORE: How to be an iParent

Keep an eye on things


    First and foremost educate yourself about the internet. Believe me, today’s adolescents know a lot more about the internet than we do! There are many tracking programs available that allow you to monitor sites your child visits.

    There are also sophisticated filters that can be applied to your teen’s computer, preventing them access to certain web sites. The Internet is a powerful tool and with adequate parental supervision and monitoring, your adolescent can reap the benefits the internet has to offer and not experience or fall victim to any of the potential dangers.


Paul Schwartz, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology and education at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh.

Other articles by Paul Schwartz