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Ask The Expert: Teen Computer Rules–Should Computers Be in Common Areas?

Dear Your Teen:

Do you think that it’s a hard-and-fast rule to have computer usage be out in open areas at all times? Both my 13 and 15-year-old sons have computers that their schools issued to them. Should we allow them to have their computers in bedrooms to do homework and to study? Or should they be in an open area?

EXPERT | Dr. Kristin Carothers

The purpose of having kids use screens in the same room with parents is to ensure safety and to monitor the content of the sites your children may visit. For older teens and adolescents, it’s important to encourage some autonomy with teen computers, within reasonable limits.

Teen Computers: How Much Tech Privacy Is Reasonable

Parents should have discussions with their teen about acceptable and unacceptable sites. If teens can agree to only visit appropriate sites, and you trust they will follow this guideline, it’s okay to allow them to use the computer or other screens in their room. If you think your teen might not adhere to these guidelines, explain why they are important. Put safeguards such as firewalls and privacy settings in place.

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You should check the web history periodically to monitor sites visited. Let your teens know as long as they follow your rules, they can earn the privilege of using computers in their room. If they do not follow guidelines, the privilege would be lost for a short period of time. They can earn it back later.

It’s also good to make sure that teens understand the permanence of what they post on the Internet and social media. It’s good to remind teens to stop and think, “Would I mind if this message or photo was displayed in Times Square?” before they hit send. This will hopefully help them take a moment to consider what they are putting online and the potential repercussions.

Some parents may want to ask for their email, computer and social media passwords before allowing them computer use. In this instance, parents can tell children that they will respect their privacy and only use the passwords in an emergency or if there is reason to be concerned about their safety or well-being.

Dr. Kristin J. Carothers is a former clinical psychologist with Child Mind Institute in New York City. She currently works at Peachtree Psychological Associates in Atlanta.

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