Using The Internet To Be A Proactive Parent   



Using The Internet To Be A Proactive Parent

 
The Internet offers a vast array of quality information and opportunities to help you be a better parent.

From a practical parental perspective, the Internet offers Web sites that can help you track baby and childhood developmental milestones and get expert advice on everything from managing the terrible twos to dealing with teenage smoking.

It also allows you to gather health information so you're armed with appropriate questions when you see the pediatrician.

Because parenting is one big learning curve, the Internet can be an enormous comfort. But information on today's Internet can still be biased, outdated or commercialized, so it pays to surf the Net with a discerning eye. You have to become media-literate so you can evaluate what you're looking at.

With this in mind, here's what you need to know to enhance your child's Internet experience and use this powerful tool to get connected to high-quality online parenting information.

CHECK ON HEALTH INFO

If your child has a chronic illness, the Internet can be especially helpful for gathering specific and timely medical information related to the condition and keeping yourself up-to-date on the latest medical breakthroughs.

You can read all the things your doctor reads, such as online medical journals like the Journal of the American Medical Association. But no matter how much research you do, the Internet won't make you a doctor and you should never change your child's medication or treatment based on something you found on a Web site.

When evaluating online health information- say you're investigating the latest treatments for chronic ear infections-make sure it is current. Also, note the site sponsor. If it's a third party with a vested interest, such as a drug company or a major manufacturer of a commercial product, take that into account. Even better, bookmark unbiased sites, such as those run by the government, a leading medical academy, a group of pediatricians or other health experts from a major university or teaching hospital.

BE PICKY ABOUT PARENTING POINTERS

For the latest parenting tips-from potty training and developmental milestones to safety issues and emotional health- turn to the online version of your favorite parenting magazine.

But no matter what parenting site you visit, remember to evaluate it for timeliness and commercialization.

For example, don't expect to read about the benefits of breastfeeding on a site sponsored by an infant-formula company. A site with diaper company advertisers may not be the best one to consult for potty training tips. You get the idea.

HOMEWORK HELP

Health and parenting information aside, the Internet can be an excellent resource for helping your child do homework.

The Internet offers art history and museum sites that will give your child photographs for a project. It also has science-related sites at which your child can ask an expert a question and get an e-maiI answer.

One of the best places to start for homework help is www.awesomelibrary.org. This site organizes the Web with 20,000 carefully reviewed resources about various subjects- from the arts and mathematics to geography and science. It includes specialized sections for children, teens, college students and parents.

It's important to stress to your child that information taken from the Internet must be properly credited. Just as a library reference book must be acknowledged in a research paper, so must a Web site. It's not acceptable to copy material online or elsewhere without noting where it came from. 

WORK WITH YOUR CHILD

Once your child gets up and running on the Internet, you may wonder if you should get a filter to block access to offensive online sites. I personally don't think a filter is necessary unless your child has a history of behavioral or emotional problems. According to child psychologists, those children tend to have trouble when they go online.

Otherwise, I advocates making a written social contract with your child that states the youngster won't give out personal information, such as an address or your credit card number, without your permission, and will tell you immediately the Web sites that make him or her uncomfortable.

If you're still worried about your child's potential exposure to inappropriate material, put the computer where you can easily see it, such as in the kitchen or the family room.

If you're not always around to monitor, you can always bring up your browser's 'history' list.' It shows you the sites where your child has been

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Happy reading,
Evelyn
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