Children like to push buttons, and the buttons they usually push the hardest are their parents’. This is a longstanding tradition. However, kids have gained the upper hand because of social media and portable electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Parents have very little control when it comes to internet usage without the help of outside devices. Any forced observance is an invasion of privacy. You may have very little control over the content your child sees and creates, but you can control your child’s access to electricity and the internet.
It is not necessarily the best parenting practice. Sometimes, regaining control is necessary for a child’s safety. When safety isn’t a concern, you can still control your child’s access without removing access to services.
Controlling Access to Electricity and the Internet: Mild to Severe Measures
Family Docking Station:
The mildest way to control your child’s access to electricity and the internet is to check-in those items at bedtime or other family times where it becomes a problem. This is a very mild option for two reasons: it is a known action by all parties, and the devices can charge during this time.
This only works if the child’s computer is in a common room instead of in the privacy of their bedroom. Having a family docking station ensures that the child knows you aren’t taking their personal electronic device to your room to invade their privacy while they sleep. It also has the arguable strategy of ensuring your child’s device is charged. They can see a benefit too. More importantly, your child might actually get some sleep.
If your WiFi isn’t under password protection, then you need to make it that way or suffer the consequences of hacking. Not only that, but it gives you control over whether or not your kids can access it. Change the password when you need to regain access. Set up parental controls to restrict access. Depending on the age of the child, some of this can be done without their knowledge.
WiFi Router Manager:
There are devices you can purchase that let you set individual controls for each user in the household. It also allows you to track websites visited and create WiFi “bedtimes” without taking away your own internet access.
Smart Circuit Breakers/Electrical Panel:
It is difficult to justify removing electrical control from the room of a child for punitive reasons. It is easily an option with smart circuit breakers and electrical panels. From the convenience of your smartphone, you can shut off the circuit breaker to your child’s room. This eliminates their nighttime night light use but may not eliminate the use of smartphones or mobile internet-enabled devices. This is probably a better option used when a child is at risk of harming themselves with electrical devices due to defiance or youthful curiosity.
You might think we’ve mixed a step in the path to severity when it comes to blocking internet access to a certain room. The step that we missed is a WiFi jammer, and those are illegal. Just like your credit card in your wallet, you can protect a room from internet access by installing a Faraday cage around it, which basically means lining the room with copper. This is very extreme, and we cannot think of any reasons to do this that don’t involve secret government agencies or law enforcement, but it is a possibility.
Control vs. Trust
There is a fine line when it comes to kids and their access to the internet versus infringing on their privacy and trust. Smartphones have introduced all sorts of modern issues in parenting to which there are no good answers because it is a new phenomenon. However, removing a child’s access to the internet completely may result in rebellion and loss of access to important friends and trusted confidants.
The first three options listed to control access to the internet are completely feasible and can be used effectively and appropriately to encourage proper internet use. The second two options are likely for very rare circumstances that extend beyond normal parenting measures.
If you have children, it may be somewhat fun and entertaining to imagine a world where you could implement these measures. This is especially true when you have the inevitable argument over phone use at the dinner table or the removal of smartphones at night. You may not be able to completely control your child’s use of the internet, but some mild control combined with some proper discussion should create a recipe for success.
In the best-case scenario, a child will understand the risks involved with internet use and will be able to properly monitor their own actions. However, we are talking about kids, so they will also likely need some help. You can help them by limiting a bit of access.