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Sharing a Family Computer

By: Charlotte Fereday - Updated: 1 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Share Family Computer Children Kids

The computer, a bit like the TV, can be a hotspot for family rows. Whether the problem is arguing over who can use it when, or about who illegally downloaded the software that let the virus in, it’s a minefield.

Follow these easy guidelines and you might discover that your family has to find something else to argue about.

Manage Their Time

It’s good to remember that you (and your partner) are the adults in the house and if you want to use the computer then any children who think they have a prior claim can wait their turn.

If you have more than one child a timetable can help avoid conflicts. Allocate set blocks of time each day and make sure they understand that homework comes first. If they finish it within their ‘slot’ then they can use the computer to email their friends and surf the internet or play games.

Experts recommend that children spend no more than two hours a day (three at weekends) in front of a screen, including the TV, games and computers. For pre-school and infants this should be less.

Managing the time your children spend on the computer can also be a useful tool for getting help with household chores. Let them earn extra time on the computer with good deeds and penalise them for bad ones by blocking their access.

Protect Your Computer

Set clear rules about what your children can install on the computer. Downloading games and software from the internet can be a fast route to a virus infected computer. Make sure you have good security software installed or you might find your files affected by a virus downloaded with a game they want to play.

For real protection set up your computer with a password protected Administrator only you can access. In your security settings specify that only you are allowed to install new programs or software.

Protect Younger Kids

If you have kids of varying ages make sure the older children understand what is appropriate for their siblings to see or hear. While their favourite album might be fine for a 15 year old it might be too explicit for a younger child. They need to learn to be responsible for whatever content they are leaving on the computer.

Monitoring and filtering software can be set up with personal profiles so each member of the family gets an appropriate level of access. Teens can visit appropriate sites without supervision whereas younger kids need to have you with them to open the internet and take them to a suitable site.

Protect Yourself

Equally, if you share your computer with your children make sure any non-child friendly content on the computer is password protected. This should include your credit card details as last year in the UK £200million was spent online by teens using their parents credit card details without their parents’ knowledge!

As a final option, next time there’s row about whose turn it is to use the computer unplug it and lock the keyboard away until they’ve learnt their lesson.

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